Brazil and SUS with its Palliative Care Inclusion Policy

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Clarice Senna Goepfert and Ms. Marcelle Rodrigues Carneiro de Souza Reis, they are 3rd-year medical students at Centro Universitário do Planalto Central Apparecido dos Santos – UNICEPLAC at Brasília, Brazil. They are 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.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), life expectancy increased between the years 2000 and 2016 from 66.5 years to 72 years; therefore, care for the elderly deserves more attention since this portion of the population is growing and has many incurable diseases. Thus, palliative care should be offered to the elderly to provide them with more humanized well-being in the last moments of life and bring comfort to family members. Besides, this type of care can also be applied to young patients due to congenital diseases, which need more attention, or chronic diseases that arise early in life and require continuous treatment. It can also be seen in accidents how palliative care is needed, making life better for the patients who suffer from endless pain.

        In Brazil, we have a public health system known as the “Unified Health System” (SUS), created in 1990, whose objective is to serve the population from a simple consultation to more complex procedures, such as organ transplantation or ensuring more expensive treatment, free of charge. This system is governed by three principles: universality, equity, and integrality, which means that all citizens have the right to health. It is followed according to each individual’s needs.

The approach that promotes the quality of life of patients and their families was mandatorily included in SUS in 2018, with the objectives of starting the process of care as early as possible, promoting pain relief, relief of psychosocial and spiritual suffering of the patient, assisting in the acceptance of the disease and natural evolution, offering support so that the individual can live in the most autonomous way possible, and ensuring the availability of a multidisciplinary team.

Even though palliative care was included in WHO guidelines in 2002, Brazil took a step ahead when offering it for free for every citizen and even foreigners, and having a manual where it was organized and divided in multidisciplinary attention, which shows how important is a follow-up of the patient in every aspect of his life, not only in the mere disease. This manual also brings some part of the law which establishes the learning in medical schools of palliative care.

In this matter, palliative care should be part of the universal health coverage, since every human being has the right to his or her well-being at any stage of their lives and deserve to be treated in a dignified way, not being left aside, or being treated as not worth it. It should be obvious to a country to offer all its citizens the right to be treated in reducing its pain, in dealing with psychological issues, not as if they were only his or her disease.


  1. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. World health statistics 2020: monitoring health for the SDGs sustainable development goals. World Health Organization, 2020.
  2. Ministério da Saúde. Available at:,%C3%9Anico%20de%20Sa%C3%BAde%20(SUS).
  3. Manual de Cuidados Paliativos. Available at:–o-final.pdf

About the author

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Clarice Senna Goepfert and Ms. Marcelle Rodrigues Carneiro de Souza Reis, they are 3rd-year medical students at Centro Universitário do Planalto Central Apparecido dos Santos – UNICEPLAC at Brasília, Brazil. Clarice is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), she is the financial director of a semiology league. Marcelle is the National Officer on Research Exchange for Incomings 20/21 of IFMSA Brazil and a lover of the scientific world. She loves to advocate in every matter that she knows will make a great research.

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