Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center to Study "Spiritual Palliation" for AIDS Patients at End of Life

The Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, part of the Yale School of Medicine, has been awarded a two-year, nearly $200,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the benefits of a meditation and massage-intervention program for people with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) at the end of life.

Working in collaboration with Leeway, Inc., a skilled AIDS nursing facility in New Haven, and Ruth McCorkle of the Yale University School of Nursing, the study will determine the effectiveness of meditation and/or massage in improving patients’ perceived quality of life.

“In terminal illness, quality of life remains important, as does the quality and peacefulness of the person’s death,” said principal investigator David L. Katz, M.D., associate clinical professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine and director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. “This study will be valuable for finding ways to improve quality of life, particularly in the spiritual domain, for patients dying with AIDS.”

AIDS is among the leading public health concerns in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 700,000 cases of adult/adolescent AIDS were reported nationally from 1981 to 1998. Despite advances in treatment options, AIDS remains one of the leading causes of death in the United States for people between the ages of 18 to 45.

“This study is much needed and could contribute significantly to AIDS management,” said Peter Selwyn, M.D., co-principal investigator of the study, medical director at Leeway, Inc., and a specialist in palliative care at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

In recent years, several major research initiatives have been directed at end-of-life care in an attempt to address issues beyond simple mortality such as quality of life. While valuable information about medical, social and emotional needs of patients was derived from this research, this study is one of the first to focus on spiritual care. “Meditation and massage interventions make intuitive sense as complementary care at the end of life,” said Katz, “however, the scientific evidence of effectiveness has not yet been gathered. We look forward to contributing to this new area of inquiry.”

Martha Dale, director of Leeway, Inc., said, “We are delighted to be participating in this study. Its focus is very consistent with the holistic care we provide. We expect the study to enhance the treatment experience of our patients, even as it contributes to the science of effective palliation at end of life.”

For further information about the study, please contact the study manager, Anna-leila Williams, MPH, PA-C at the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center at 203-732-1265, or cats@yalegriffinprc.org.

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Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326