Palliative care: an ethical responsibility of health systems

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Nicole Mazzochi, a second-year medical student at Universidade Federal de Santa Maria (UFSM), in southern Brazil. 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.


WHO defines palliative care as the prevention and relief of the suffering of patients and their families, who are facing problems associated with potentially fatal diseases. Palliative care improves the quality of life, promoting dignity and comfort and may also positively influence the course of the disease. That care has a long list of benefits for the patient, the family and the health system and, therefore, it must be integrated and complementary to the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of serious diseases or health problems that limit life.

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goal: universal health coverage (UHC), it is necessary to integrate palliative care in public health systems. This care is part of a medical and ethical need that must be accessible to anyone who needs it at all levels of health systems. In this perspective, for the inclusion of palliative care in health systems the first steps should be: a national palliative care policy that requires access for all to palliative care; a national strategic plan to provide this access; inclusion of palliative care in any strategic plans involving cancer, such as sexually transmitted diseases, such as the elderly, pediatrics, HIV and AIDS, drug-resistant tuberculosis and primary health care (PHC).

Palliative care can increase many advantages to health systems, as they improve patient outcomes by preventing and alleviating the most common and serious types of suffering associated with serious health problems. In addition, they reduce costs for the health system, reducing hospital admissions and the length of stay near the end of life.

Furthermore, the integration of palliative care specifically in PHC can generate additional benefits. Since palliative care provided as part of the PHC system can be home-based, the home care services provided can also be expanded. Visiting patients at home presents an ideal opportunity both to ask about the well-being of the home and family and to educate them. Health professionals can be trained to provide education not only on caregiving for the patient, but also, for example, on how to quit smoking, indoor air quality, HIV prevention and the importance of a healthy diet, exercise, prenatal care and cervical cancer screening.

In addition, palliative care can help to fill some needs of the most deprived health systems, such as the lack of mental health services, rehabilitation and long-term care facilities to care for people with severe disabilities and social assistance services.

Lastly, the planning and implementation of palliative care in health systems must encompass the assessment and treatment of the four dimensions of suffering: physical, psychological, social and spiritual. This allows treatment to be centered on local needs and, therefore, adapted to the needs of each patient and their family.

About the author

Nicole Mazzochi is a second-year medical student at Universidade Federal de Santa Maria (UFSM), in southern Brazil. She is the local president of IFMSA Brazil in her university. She is particularly interested in public health, because she believes it can contribute a lot in people’s lives. For her, the perfect medical practice encompasses scientific research, patient-centered care and empathy.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Some endangered languages manage to thrive. Here’s how

Top UN rights official urges transparent probe into Khashoggi disappearance

COVID-19 Therapeutics Strategy: Commission identifies five promising candidate therapeutics

Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming At the Reception in Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China

Dieselgate: Parliament calls for mandatory retrofits of polluting cars

New UN-supported farming app is cream of crop in tackling Sahel pest

Nine children killed or maimed in Afghanistan every day: UN Children’s Fund

This lethal fungus is threatening to wipe out the world’s bananas

Right2Water initiative: Is the Commission ready to listen to citizens?

Ozone on track to heal completely in our lifetime, UN environment agency declares on World Day.

‘Compelling case’ for urgency around global disarmament, UN-led forum told

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Bicycles for the environment, new leader for the UN General Assembly, UN values, Ebola, Syria and Libya

Here’s what a Korean boy band can teach us about globalization 4.0

Easier Schengen Visas for non-EU holiday makers: A crucial issue for south Eurozone countries

ECB’s billions fortify south Eurozone except Greece; everybody rushes to invest in euro area bonds zeroing their yields

Afghanistan: Civilian casualties caused by IEDs has reached ‘extreme levels’, UN warns

Royal Navy to unveil future surveillance and reconnaissance requirements next February in Rome

How can the EU hit net-zero emissions?

Why cities hold the key to safe, orderly migration

More effort needed to improve equity in education

The experience economy is booming, but it must benefit everyone

How tech is helping the agriculture sector curb carbon emissions

EP’s MFF negotiators disappointed by failure of EU budget summit

UN’s Bachelet addresses progress and setbacks in human rights worldwide

Palm Oil: With Malaysia cracking down on production, what’s the alternative?

Parliament demands democratic scrutiny over national recovery efforts

UN launches new project to address link between terrorism, arms and crime

Building social good – lessons from an Asian giant

Scientists have a new suggestion to create more climate-friendly cows

Why do medical students need to go abroad to become a doctor in 2017?

Commission tries to solidify the EU statistical system

Member states jeopardising the rule of law will risk losing EU funds

A Sting Exclusive: “eHealth can change many dimensions of how the healthcare area functions”, Polish MEP Michal Boni underscores from Brussels

Jean-Claude Juncker and Theresa May at last week’s EU Council. Source: EC Audiovisual Services / Copyright: European Union, 2017 / Photo: Etienne Ansotte

EU leaders open “Phase Two” of Brexit talks and warn Theresa May of tougher times

How technology can help unbanked access e-commerce

Cryptocurrency mining could become the new face of energy storage. Here’s how

Strong support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s integration into the European Union

International community agrees on a road map for resolving the tax challenges arising from digitalisation of the economy

We must treat cybersecurity as a public good. Here’s why

Millions of Afghans have ‘voted not just for a president, but also for democracy’, UN Assembly told

Is the EU competent enough to fight human smuggling in 2015?

How the world can gear up for the fight against cancer

Blockchain is becoming key for global trade – but is that a gift for hackers?

Investigate alleged pushbacks of asylum-seekers at the Greek-Turkish border, MEPs demand

5G will redefine entire business models. Here’s how

The last goodbye of JADE’s Executive Board 2019

UN rushes to deliver aid as key Yemeni port city is ‘shelled and bombarded’

Regulate social media platforms to defend democracy, MEPs say

World Population Day: ‘A matter of human rights’ says UN

Brexit ‘no-deal’ preparedness: Final Commission call to all EU citizens and businesses to prepare for the UK’s withdrawal on 31 October 2019

Don’t take African generosity towards refugees for granted, says UN refugee chief

Horn of Africa: UN chief welcomes Djibouti agreement between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia

Digital Single Market: Survey shows Europeans are well aware of rules against unjustified geo-blocking

Human rights breaches in Bangladesh, Cuba and Vietnam

Coronavirus: EU guidance for a safe return to the workplace

Better sanitation for India is in the pipeline

IMF’s Lagarde to Peoples of the world: You have to work more for the banks!

Pakistan: a long road ahead

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s