The cost of dying

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Neena Shaji, a 2nd year medical student in David Tvildiani Medical University in Georgia. She is affiliated with 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.


The WHPCA defines universal health coverage (UHC) as ‘ensuring that all people can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.’ UHC should be seen as a right of every person whether rich or poor, young or old, male or female. Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of adults and children living with and dying from life limiting conditions. The hospice and palliative care approach focuses on meeting the needs of the whole person, not just treating their medical condition. It addresses the physical, social, psychological, spiritual issues and other problems faced by those affected and their families. It can be a time of emotional distress both for the patient as well as the family members as accepting the fact that death is near can be hard for anyone to accept. During a period like this, financial distress regarding healthcare shouldn’t be what concerns them the most. They have the right to die peacefully surrounded by family without having to worry about not getting the needed treatment having to break a hole in their purses.

UHC in Palliative Health Care has more benefits than what we see on the surface. It is a needed and essential service that is the right of every person. Around 40 million require palliative health care each year.When families are affected by life-limiting illnesses, they are often severely affected financially as they are either unable to work due to their condition or family members are unable to work due to their caring responsibilities.This can have a devastating impact on household income, making the purchase of basic necessities such as food and clothing a challenge. In addition, in many parts of the world, hospice and palliative care services, and places to receive pain medications, are often sparsely distributed. These services and medications are often only available in certain locations e.g major cities. For this reason, people end up travelling long distances, at significant cost, in order to get the care that they need. Home care is often not available, or not included in health coverage insurance and schemes . Palliative Healthcare can improve quality of life and prevent suffering. It can help the dying to reduce their pain and have a dignified death.  Improving quality of life has often been neglected in public health discourse with a focus on prevention and cure and lives saved. It can be argued that this has been at the cost of alleviating suffering. There is also evidence that shows that UHC in palliative health care can be cost effective. It can reduce the inefficient methods of palliative health care and reduce the inappropriate hospital admissions and lengths of stay and the inappropriate and ineffective use of medicines.

UHC in Palliative care doesn’t come without challenges. But those challenges outweigh the advantages it offers and upholds the dignity of every person.

About the author

Neena Shaji is a 2nd year medical student in David Tvildiani Medical University in Georgia. She has a keen interest in Public Health and wants her to pursue her masters in public health after med school. Her field of interest is mainly in child and adolescent health care. She believes that technology and health care goes hand in hand and through technology we can reduce the gap in health care among different sections of the society. 

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