Palliative care and UHC in India: Still Uncharted Waters?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Sharon Gigy, a final year medical student studying in K.S. Hegde Medical Academy, Karnataka. 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.

‘Even when I’m dying, until I die, I’m still living’                  – Paul Kalanithi, When Breath becomes Air

This was the beginning of my journey towards understanding what “palliative care” actually meant. Like many others, even I had a skewed comprehension of what the term actually meant. There is a widespread misconception that palliative care is given to hasten the process of death or is restricted to certain medical conditions like cancer. I believe that the first step en route to making palliative care more accessible as declared in the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is to clear all the misconceptions shrouding it and pushing it into obscurity. This holds especially true in a developing country like India where the number of patients who need palliative care is growing constantly.

In India, a shift from communicable to non-communicable diseases has been noticed in recent years. Home to nearly 1/6th of the world’s population, India has a growing concern, palliative care. But less than 1% of its population has access to adequate palliative services (1). Despite having an organisation like the Indian Association of Palliative Care (IAPC) within the country; lack of personnel training, budget allocation, poor awareness activities, inadequate drug availability and improper implementation, India places at the bottom of the Quality of Death index in the world.

Currently, it is difficult to provide palliative care to all in a rapidly growing setting like India without making a few changes at grassroot level. Firstly, addressing that a substantial need for inclusion of basic training in palliative care in medical and nursing colleges is required. Also periodic training in palliative care through Continued medical education for existing professionals should be carried out (2). Secondly, palliative care rotation at tertiary, community and primary health care should be made mandatory for all students during internship. Lastly, awareness drives must be conducted to expel any misconceptions that people may have about palliative care and they should be encouraged to accept it as a viable option if need be.

Although, these steps may sound very trivial they are of utmost importance for making palliative care more accessible to the population in the long run. Future endeavors must aim to improve the availability of palliative care centres around the country complete with qualified doctors. Attempts should also be made to highlight the problems within IAPC and corrective measures should be taken for further advancement.

As quoted by Paul Kalanithi in his book; until a person dies, he/she is still living. The main purpose of palliative care is to help alleviate the suffering and improve the quality of life of patients as well as their families who are facing a life threatening illness during this time period. Palliative care also provides other supportive measures whether physical, psychosocial or spiritual until the patient’s last breath (3).

Different people have different needs, cultures and beliefs, therefore palliative care can vary greatly from one individual to next and should be tailor made for each individual’s necessities. The concept of palliative care is yet unknown in many parts within the country. Efforts should be made to bridge this gap between awareness and availability for further development.

To conclude, we have a long way to go before palliative care can be accepted within the boundaries of UHC in India. But small steady steps in the right direction will surely make this a reality in the foreseeable future.


  1. The current status of palliative care in India | Cancer Control [Internet]. 2020. Available from:,and%20palliative%20care%20(1).
  2. Jain V. Palliative care in India: Trials, tribulations, and future prospects. J Mahatma Gandhi Inst Med Sci 2018;23:55-8
  3. Connor S. Global Atlas of Palliative Care, 2nd Ed 2020 [Internet]. The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance. 2020. Available from:

About the author

The author, Sharon Gigy is a final year medical student studying in K.S. Hegde Medical Academy, Karnataka. She is an active member of Medical Student’s Association of India (MSAI). As a child, she has always enjoyed debating and aspires to set up a platform where like-minded people can gather and discuss issues which matter most to them. She enjoys competing and has participated in many national level competitions. Her hobbies include figure skating, making posters, learning new languages and basketball.

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

Eurozone banks are unable to support real economy’s dawning growth

Young New Yorkers bring robots, and a glimpse of the future, to UN Headquarters

Doctors are humans too: the benefits of embracing your mental status

Climate change and health – can medical students be the solution?

Does Draghi have another ace up his sleeve given his Quantitative Easing failure?

‘We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers’: WHO chief

As Yemen relief operations face funding gap, timing of surge in violence ‘couldn’t be worse’

This is what a Green New Deal for Europe could look like

Election-related violence claims 85 lives in Afghanistan: UN report

Education: EU increases its commitment to Global Partnership for Education with a pledge of €700 million for 2021-2027

How virtual tourism can rebuild travel for a post-pandemic world

Colourism: How skin-tone bias affects racial equality at work

MEPs commend Ukraine‘s reform efforts and denounce Russian aggression

EU-UK relations: MEPs approve rules to ensure Eurotunnel safety and cooperation

How a more integrated approach could help to end energy poverty

In Libya, Guterres ‘deeply concerned’ by risk of fresh military confrontation, urges restraint

Aid stepped up to Syria camp; new arrivals say terrorists blocked their escape

European Youth Capital 2019 announced: Novi Sad, Serbia

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘End the Cage Age’ initiative

Eurozone: Economic Sentiment Indicator recovering losses

How fixing broken food systems can help us meet all the SDGs

Towards a seamless internal EU market for industrial goods

Hurdles of the COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

State aid: Commission concludes that recapitalisation of German NordLB is market conform

Parliament calls on member states to fully exploit the European Youth Guarantee

Syrian crisis: EU mobilises an overall pledge of €6.9 billion for 2020 and beyond

Why support for Latin America’s early tech hubs is vital for the region

Global Goals offer ‘special opportunity’ to change course of development, Bosnian leader tells General Assembly

Commerce is on the cusp of radical change. Is your organization ready?

Microplastics have been found in Rocky Mountain rainwater

Why nature is the most important stakeholder of the coming decade

Arlington, USA: kick-off of the fifth round of the EU-US boxing match

5 challenges for government adoption of AI

Joint UN-Red Cross appeal to end rising sexual violence as a weapon of war

Obama, Crimea and the TTIP pill

What is a gender parity accelerator, and how does it work?

IMF – World Bank meetings: US – Germany clash instituted, anti-globalization prospects visualized

Questions and Answers on the EU Digital Covid Certificate

Beware the fragility of the global economy

EU and UK reach agreement in principle on fishing opportunities for the remainder of 2021

Has the EU economy truly revived from the financial crisis?

Why carbon capture could be the game-changer the world needs

Listen to the future – how 26 youth-led organizations are supercharging the UN’s Global Goals

The EU Spring Summit set to challenge austerity

Milk, fruits and vegetables distributed to schoolchildren thanks to EU programme

After COVID-19, we must rethink how we find and produce new drugs

How can we measure real progress on the Sustainable Development Goals?

Iraq: UN mission urges ‘maximum restraint’ following deadly attack on foreign troops

‘We will not give up on looking for peace for South Sudan’: UN deputy chief

Hunger in Yemen: WFP considers aid suspension in face of repeated interference by some Houthi leaders

Northern Bahamas ravaged by ‘disaster of epic proportions’ as UN releases $1 million in emergency funds

Mergers: Commission refers acquisition of newly created joint venture by Telefónica and Liberty Global to the UK competition authority

European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production

10 surprising things that rely on artificial intelligence

UN chief lauds Fijians as ‘natural global leaders’ on climate, environment, hails ‘symbiotic relationship’ with land and sea

UN human rights chief denounces grave ‘assaults’ on fundamental rights of Palestinian people

Why the Fourth Industrial Revolution could spell more jobs – not fewer

Three things Nigeria must do to end extreme poverty

Concorde is a reminder that the only way for innovation is up

Coronavirus: Commission concludes talks to secure future coronavirus vaccine for Europeans

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

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

You are commenting using your 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