Until breath becomes air, there is no limit to care

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Sara Ayoub, a Lebanese 20 years old third year medical student at the Lebanese University, Beirut. 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 writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

A palliative care physician Steve Pantilat reminds us that “even in the midst of chaos there is hope”.

Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of patients suffering from life threatening conditions such as cancer, heart failure, HIV, etc. It highlights one of the most important principles in medicine which is treating a person, rather than just “another medical condition”. It even addresses other issues faced by their families.

Nonetheless, it is still absent in many hospitals around the world. For that reason, it is important to advocate for palliative care.

Governments all around the world must cooperate with universities to integrate palliative care research and training as a main component in their ongoing and continuous education. They should also consider including palliative care within health financing systems. Therefore, access to opioid analgesics and basic technologies for pain relief must be available to all and so included within health insurance.

However, a government that does not realize the value of palliative care will not be encouraged to take such steps. Here comes the role of students, doctors, nurses, and civil society to raise awareness of people’s right to a better quality of life, until their last breath becomes air.

In fact, because advocating for palliative care requires wise decision makers, it is the youths’ job to educate voters so that they demand their representatives to develop palliative care programs in their districts. One of the ways to do this is to raise the voice of those who are directly affected by life-limiting conditions to ask for palliative care.

As a matter of fact, pain management is a fundamental step and promoting it can be done by individuals, but it is through institutions that it would be most effective. In other words, we should join palliative care organizations around us. This will allow us to engage with lawmakers and journalists that will help us to shed the light on the necessity of the inclusion of palliative care in UHC.

A study was conducted in 2017 to emphasize the importance of palliative care: a group of patients suffering from cancer, who were enrolled in a palliative care program, was compared with a control group of patients receiving standard care during the same period. Results showed that patients in the control group had significantly higher likelihood of ICU admission at the end of life and higher likelihood of death in the hospital.

In conclusion, people with serious illnesses know what is going on. Deep inside, they hope for a cure. Sometimes the cure is absent but that does not mean that hope is demolished, because with that desire of a cure coexist many other hopes that can come true. An old woman with a life threatening condition wishes to attend her daughter’s wedding in three months, and perhaps she will not make it until that time. Thus, her dream of seeing her daughter walking down the aisle is not impossible: the wedding can take place earlier, for the sake of the mother. And that is the kind of expectations that palliative care aims to achieve.

You see, we all know that the ship cannot sail forever; it shall reach the shore, but as long as we are on deck, let us make the best of it and enjoy the ride. 






About the author

Sara Ayoub is a Lebanese 20 years old third year medical student at the Lebanese University, Beirut. She is a general member of the Lebanese Medical Students International Committee also known as LeMSIC. Her aim is to benefit from her future medical career in order to reach out to the most vulnerable and defend human’s rights.

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