Wine, particularly red wine, has proven health benefits when drunk in moderation. One hospital in France is prescribing wine for its patients, not for the health benefits, but for the palliative benefits it offers patients reaching the end of their lives. The wine is offered to family members, too. The thought is that wine helps people to relax, to speak freely and to experience pleasure — all important at such a critical time.

When my dad was at the end of his life, there were some hard conversations. I had to ask him questions like, "Mom doesn't know where you keep your life insurance paperwork. Where is it?" That may not seem like such a difficult thing to ask, but when the underlying implication is, "Hey dad, you'll be gone in a couple weeks. Where is the paperwork that will help us pay for your funeral?" it's a very hard question to ask. A few sips of wine first may have made it easier for both of us.

That's why an article a friend sent me about this French hospital caught my attention. Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital in France has a wine bar stocked with donated wine and "served according to an institutional protocol." The wine may not be able to improve patients' health, but it can temporarily improve their well-being.

The wine bar is the brainchild of Dr. Virginie Guastella. She told The Local, "It's a way of rethinking the care of others, taking into account their feelings and emotions that make them a human being." If the wine can restore some pleasure to those at the end of their life, it's a good thing.

Prescribed wine for well-being at the end of life is not something you'll find in many healthcare facilities throughout the world, at least not overtly. What John La Puma, M.D., FACP, the author of the article, suggests is that prescribed wine should be used more often in both inpatient centers and home hospice programs.

I have some friends who work in hospice (big-hearted, amazing people who have the compassion to be around people at the end of their lives day in and day out), and I asked if wine is ever suggested as an option. The answer was no, but if one of their patients wanted to drink a glass of wine, it would be encouraged. At the end of life, if a glass of wine brings pleasure, why not?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

A wine bar in a hospital? Why not?
A French hospital prescribes wine as palliative care at the end of life. Should the practice be more widespread?