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Why Palliative Care?

palliativecareMost patients with cancer who have not been cured within a year or two of being diagnosed soon come to realise that their chance of survival is low and that they have limited time at their disposal. At that stage, all that they want is to live the rest of their months as happily as possible, in comfort and peace, and experience a pain-free passing on, preferably at home in the midst of family and friends.

But, unlike the West, in India we lack a well-oiled and effective structure to administer this care – at least in sufficient numbers to take care of the demand.

Indeed, currently, in this part of the world, the vast majority of patients who have life-limiting conditions and cure is no longer an option, no matter their financial position, have little, if any, access to medically trained experts in palliative and end-of-life care. They either land up in hospital, in a clinical environment, cut off for the large part from family and friends; or if hospital care is beyond their financial means, they have no option but to die at home in pain.

Yes, there are pockets of palliative care facilities dotted across the country – but except for the state of Kerala, these are few and far between and woefully inadequate to cover those in need of the care.

And given the rising incidence of cancer, a condition where the mortality rate is as high as 70% to 80%, the need to proliferate palliative care facilities across the country cannot be underscored sufficiently enough.

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The World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • Claims there were over 8.2 million cancer related deaths globally in 2012*; 683,800 deaths in India alone**.
  • Predicts the number of new cases will rise by about 70% over the next 2 decades.
  • Advocates that palliative care is an urgent humanitarian need for people worldwide with cancer and other chronic fatal diseases.
  • Believes this is particularly needed in places with a high proportion of patients in advanced stages where there is little chance of cure*.
* World Health Organization – Media Centre. Fact sheet N°297 Updated February 2015.
** World Health Organization – Cancer Country Profiles, 2014.
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s ‘The 2015 Quality of Death Index – Ranking palliative care across the world’ October 2015
  • Places India 67 out of 80 countries on the index of countries that provide quality end-of-life care to its dying population
  • Goes to show how far behind India is in this area.