Palliative and end-of-life care for military veterans: the forgotten few?

January, 2021

This article explores the experience of palliative and end-of-life care for veterans. The article pays attention to ideas around the embodied experiences of military life and military constructs that are different to civilian society, to inform discussion around how the military legacy impacts the dying process in veterans.


Military veterans are likely to have encountered death, pain, and suffering, and to have prepared for them like few other groups in society. This is also a group trained to follow highly ceremonial rituals around death, burials, and commemoration. Yet veterans are not seen as ‘different’ in palliative and end-of-life care (EoLC), including that provided by GP practices. Throughout military service, encounters with death and dying are frequently intense, highly personal, and potentially traumatic, in ways seldom seen or understood in civilian life. Furthermore, the nature of military occupation — resembling more a lifestyle than a job — entails cultural separation from civilian life, with perceptions, norms, and ideals around death and dying forming part of this culture. Embodied experiences in military life as well as psychological, social, and ethical constructs (for example, guiding beliefs, value systems, norms, rules, and expectations) are often markedly different from those of civilian society. We do not know enough about how this legacy impacts the dying process in veterans and what the health services implications are, including in the context of general practice.

Full Reference

Mila Petrova, Nick Caddick and Michael Kevin Almond. British Journal of General Practice 2021; 71 (703): 86-89. DOI:

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