Palliative care in Universal Health Coverage: an act of love and dignity

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Beatriz Rocha Cuzzuol, a 2nd year medical student at Federal University of Bahia, Vitória da Conquista – BA, Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Palliative care is defined as medical care specialized for people with life-threatening illnesses. This medical approach intends to promote quality of life and reduce suffering for these patients in their end of life. Thus, it is easy to perceive that palliative care should be included in Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Alleviate suffering and promote access to pain treatment is a human right and should be accessible for all human beings without discrimination. Patients with untreatable conditions are usually in situations of a lot of pain and anguish. In these scenarios, palliative care emerges as a solution to not only alleviate physical pain but also involves psychological and spiritual care.

When we talk about patients with end-stage illness and palliative care, we assume that it implies only sedation and pain control, forgetting their mental and spiritual health. Defending palliative care is much more than that. It is to understand these patients as complex individuals, looking at them with sensitivity and humanity. Also, palliative care is a way to promote dignity for terminally ill patients, for reducing unnecessary interventions and procedures that culminates in needless suffering.

Embracing palliative care means embracing these patients. It is an act of love and humanity to defend and advocate in favor of this medical approach.

References

  1. Knaul F. et al. Palliative care: an essential facet of universal health coverage. The Lancet Global Health, 2019. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(19)30323-7.
  2. Knaul F. Integrating palliative care into health systems is essential to achieve Universal Health Coverage. The Lancet Oncology, 2018. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(18)30600-4
  3. Universal Health Coverage and Palliative Care. Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance, 2014.

About the author

Beatriz Rocha Cuzzuol is a 2nd year medical student at Federal University of Bahia, Vitória da Conquista – BA, Brazil. She is an active member of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations Brazil, and truly believes that local acts and thoughts can cause global changes.

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