Palliative Care: a human right

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Geetika Gaekwad, a 23 year old medical student, interning at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College, Indore, India. 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.

Looking into the demand of the hour, it’s time to mainstream the concept of palliative care.

Palliative care is an eternal part of universal health coverage (UHC). UHC ensures promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services. Palliative care aims to improve the standards of living of people suffering from life-limiting conditions. It encompasses the true definition of health in terms of physical, mental, social and spiritual well being. Although the basic architecture for providing palliative care is well planned, yet the true essence of implementing it at grass root level is challenging.

The perspective that a major population suffers from conditions which can neither be treated or cured, must be brought to our attention. Conditions like malignancies, HIV-AIDS, DR-TB, congenital abnormalities, non-communicable diseases, developmental delays etc. are a major focus in today’s era. Therefore, it is important to understand the need for palliation and protocol for delivery of care.

The idea of providing health care services at 3 different levels can pave way for strengthening the reach of palliative care under UHC.

In a nationwide approach, the government must introduce newer policies that emphasise on palliative care as a basic human right.

The governmental programs should focus, from elemental needs of nourishment to financial aids for palliation. The government should launch special insurance schemes so as to make palliative care an affordable affair.

Citing an example about the availability and cost effectiveness of pain management medications, it is evident, how important it is for government to initiate a talk on palliative care, i.e. the use of Morphine as a pain killer in various malignancies  is very limited, pertaining to strict laws on its use.

In the long run, the government must tie up with international organisations and NGOs to socialise the idea of palliative care.

The next level comprising Healthcare facilities serves as the fundamental unit for executing palliative care. They should prioritise the needs for providing palliative care.

This starts at the most elementary level of medical education. The medical curriculum must be revised to increase the weightage given to palliative care.

The medicos should be nurtured to be vigilant enough in identifying cases and providing them with basic palliative care.

The Hospitals and Healthcare centres must define a protocol to initially triage patients on basis of their needs and thereby provide them with required care.

Patients with terminal stage malignancies, Non Communicable Diseases, Infections requiring palliative care, must be given proper Medical and Surgical Treatment so as to alleviate their symptoms.

Use of special aids for differently-abled people, quadriplegics, persons with congenital abnormalities, etc. should be enforced.

Finally, the community level must concentrate on awareness generation programs and try to eliminate the stigma associated with various life limiting conditions. The public must be educated about the spread and the prevention of diseases like HIV-AIDS, Polio, etc. Vaccination programs must be geared up. Psychiatric consultations may improve mental health of these patients.

At the end, a little hustle can pave the way to a healthier mankind.

About the author

Geetika Gaekwad, is a 23 year old medical student, interning at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College, Indore, India. She has an innate desire to serve the humanity, wholeheartedly. She has always been a passionate learner and an enthusiastic leader. She excels in various co-curricular activities. The topic about palliative care made her pen down her thoughts as she desires to be an oncologist and understands the utmost need for palliation.

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