Legal practitioners in Malawi learn about palliative care

Categories: Policy.

The meeting was held on the 6th August 2014 in Lilongwe, Malawi

Palliative care advocates and service providers in Malawi met to forge strategic linkages that aim to ensure greater access to palliative care services for people with life limiting illnesses.

As a result, legal practitioners in Malawi have pledged their support in efforts of advocating for a review of prescription laws in the country to allow trained nurses, clinical officers and medical assistants to become legal prescribers of morphine. This was agreed as a critical strategy for increasing access to palliative care, and especially pain management for people with life limiting illness.

This has been part of the deliberations at the first palliative care sensitisation meeting for legal and human rights experts in Malawi.

The meeting aimed to sensitise the legal and human rights experts on palliative care and discuss legal and human rights issues that affect its scale up in Malawi. This was with a view to influencing them to become active partners in addressing the legal and human rights concerns and needs of patients with life threatening illnesses, as well as those of palliative care service providers in the country.

The meeting, organised by the Palliative Care Association of Malawi (PACAM) and the Ministry of Health of Malawi, with technical support from the African Palliative Care Association (APCA), was funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. All these were represented at the meeting.

The Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET) were also in attendance to share their experience on providing legal support to people with life limiting illnesses. More than eight legal and human rights organisations were represented at the meeting including the judiciary and police. Also in attendance was a widow and main carer of her late husband, who was able to write his Will with support from Ndimoyo Palliative Care programme where he was accessing palliative care. She talked of how this has helped her cope with managing the family without challenges following the death of her husband.

Legal practitioners have also pledged their support to palliative care service sites by providing probono (free) legal services to palliative care patients. Some of the critical legal issues that are affecting palliative care patients include: inadequate access to palliative care and pain medications in the rural areas; property grabbing and lack of knowledge on writing a Will.

As a result of the meeting a task force has been established comprising of legal practitioners and palliative care providers to provide coordination and leadership for implementation of the agreed priorities from the meeting. The development of IEC materials on palliative care and the law was also identified as a priority, to improve awareness at all levels, including communities, patients and their families.

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