World Hospice and Palliative Care Day
World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is celebrated the second Saturday of October every year and falls on 10th October, this year (2015).
Palliative Care in India is in a relatively early stage of development and consequently faces many problems. India is ranked 67th in an 80 country study of ‘Quality of Death Index’ by a Singaporean Philanthropic organization. This shows that as a country we are woefully inadequate in providing meaningful palliative care to the needy. This is to do with end-of-life care facilities, the state’s formal palliative care policy in place, the funding available, the medical problems, the social and spiritual issues, the time to spare, and the people ‘s training for taking care of the people needing palliative care.
The progress on providing end-of-life care in countries like India, China,Mexico, Brazil and Uganda is slow. Availability of specialized palliative care workers is very important and it is here that countries like UK score particularly well. Therefore efforts made in this direction would be fruitful in the short and longterm.
Opioid availability is seriously limited in India and this, along with non-availability of some inexpensive drugs is a big medical problem in India. Adding to the suffering patient’s burden is the resultant prescription of expensive drugs. Using opoids is not addictive – a commonly held myth – addiction is rare when used safely under hospice physician’s guidance.
A system based on out-patient care is effective and it empowers families to care for patients at home. This way we can dispel the myth that ‘Hospice’ is a place. Whenever possible inpatient facility and home visits should be available for those who need them.
Private insurers should cover Hospice Care. This to a large extent would dispel the myth that only people with money have access to hospice care. Hospice care should be part of mainstream health provision by the state so that everyone has access to hospice palliative care. Hospice care is for all ages from infancy to adulthood with any number of medical conditions and the myth that it is just for the elderly should be dispelled through public education . Another myth that hospice care is to be provided at the end of one’s life should be dispelled. This is by providing specialized care by trained personnel so that the individual feels that he/she is living as fully as possible until the end on his/her terms.
All physicians especially oncologists should spread the above message and strive to improve palliative and hospice care in India by educating and including the community in these efforts.
Dr SVSS Prasad,
Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist,