What is Palliative Care?


Palliative care is provided by an interdisciplinary team consisting of physicians, registered nurses, nursing assistants, psychologists, social workers, spiritual priests, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, complementary therapists, volunteers and, most importantly, the family.

The team’s focus is to optimise the patient’s comfort.

Caregivers, both family and volunteers, are the crux of the system. They look after the patient on a 24 x 7 basis and often need respite, which may last may last a few hours up to several days.

Unlike in the West, where caregivers then need to place the patient in a nursing home or in-patient hospice unit, in India our large families allow caregivers to take break while another member of the family takes over.

Origins of Palliative Care. Palliative care takes its roots from the modern hospice movement, which itself takes its origins only as recently as in 1967, when Dame Cicely Saunders, regarded as the founder of the modern hospice movement, founded St. Christopher’s Hospice in the UK.

But today, Palliative care has developed far beyond the original hospice movement and is being seen as the third arm of medicine (preventative, curative and palliative)

The WHO Definition of
Palliative Care

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

Palliative care:
  • provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
  • affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
  • intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
  • integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
  • offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
  • offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement;
  • uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated;
  • will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
  • is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.