Modern palliation builds on a well-founded philosophy that aims to provide the patient with high-quality care when cure is no longer a possibility. The terms hospice, nursing care and palliative medicine are frequently used equilaterally. However, doubt has arisen as to whether the term palliative medicine covers nursing challenges. We suggest that nursing and caring functions should be a part of the concepts of treatment and palliation irrespective of the definition of palliation chosen. Interest and engagement in palliation are growing, but incidents of insufficient pain relief and symptom control are still reported, and evidence of poorly developed systems for communication and coordination still remains. The present situation suggests that there are still numerous challenges connected to treatment and nursing care of seriously ill and dying patients. New knowledge, insight and understanding have been accumulated in recent years, but there are still many unsolved problems in the palliative field.