The why in including palliative care in Universal Health Care

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Rîjkin Mihnea, Mandache Mădălina Elena and Kurti Silva, three medical students from Romania. They are 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 writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Since the beginning of time, humans have been social animals and always helped each other, even more in challenging times. From this concern for the individual next to you, the notion of palliation was born. This concept aims to directly help people in suffering, but also indirectly help those close to them, not only with emotional and spiritual support but also by educating them about the situation and supporting them as caregivers. Palliative care is recommended as a choice by the doctor when someone suffers from a serious, life-threatening illness, a long-lasting disease, to improve their quality of life.

Some people may be asking: why should we include palliative care in the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) when other parts appear to be more important? A study shows that the earlier you receive palliative care the better and pleasing the outcome, not only by improving the quality of life but also by decreasing depressive symptoms and prolonging life in patients with terminal illnesses. It is a needed health service that should be accessible to everyone without exposing the user to any more financial hardship. 

Regarding the inclusion of palliative care in UHC, one of the most important things to consider is that the population needs to know about palliative care: What is it? What is good for? When should they turn to palliative care? Because not many people know about the benefits of palliative care they make an association between palliative care and an incoming short-living life and fast death, which is not always the case. Even though doctors have the primary role in informing the population, familiarising the people can also be done with school programs, especially in medical profile universities. Thus, future health professionals can attest the usefulness and need for spreading accurate knowledge on palliative care. The community should also be informed about the Palliative Care Provider Directory: a search engine for palliative care, with informational purpose.

After the population is informed about palliative care, the following concern is that they should be able to access this type of care as simple as possible. A recommendation from the doctor should be enough to have access to palliative care since the doctor is able to put the diagnosis of the illness and decide if the patient must go to a hospice or not. Unfortunately, there is not always as easy as this. 

In all cases, the doctor must inform the relatives of the patient. Ultimately, the family of the subject has an immense role, because the palliative care patients want and need to have someone beside them. They want to talk with their friends and relatives, and we should never turn our back to them.

Therefore, palliative care has good reasons to be included in UHC, most important of them being the physical and mental state of the patient and essentially the morale of his relatives. That is why everyone should take a step in the direction of raising awareness about the need for palliative care.

About the authors

Rîjkin Mihnea, Mandache Mădălina Elena and Kurti Silva are three medical students from Romania, born in three different cities and two different countries, but all part of the Standing Committee on Medical Education (SCOME) of the Craiova Medical Students’ Society (SSMC). Studying at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Craiova, they connected through their passion for volunteering and medical education, while organizing every year different editions of the “Palliative Workshop” project with the hope of raising awareness about this need in the Romanian Medical Education System.

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