Reflecting on global palliative care in the festive season

Categories: In The Media.

The festive season is a time of blessings and reflection.

Being aware of our blessings throws into sharp relief the challenges faced by others around the world. Towards the end of this year, we have seen political instability and conflict in countries such as Thailand, Ukraine, Bangladesh and the Central African Republic. 

Our thoughts have been with our colleagues working in those countries, as well as the patients and families they work with, as we are only too aware that in desperate situations, it is the most vulnerable people who suffer more than others. 

We are in awe of the people who continue to do their work in these situations, disregarding their own personal safety as they care for their patients. As Mohammad Saab, nurse at Balsam Palliative Care centre in Lebanon, said: “There are certain times where there is danger, but we are used to that. There is a resilience. You try and play it safe… we are committed to providing our services to anyone who needs them.”

Colleagues in Bangladesh and Kenya set aside their personal comfort and safety to lend medical and counselling skills to care for those affected by the tragic building collapse in Savar, near Dhaka, and the attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi. 

The illness and death of Nelson Mandela provided a high-profile example of the strain placed on a family in the absence of advance directives when dealing with serious illness. Palliative care experts questioned whether he experienced suffering that could have been prevented, had he been aware of the need to prepare this important document. 

Despite the uncertainty of his last months, South Africa and the world celebrated the life of this great man, rather than mourning his death. We remembered his resilience and dignity in the face of huge adversary, his gigantic acts of forgiveness and, above all, the hope that he had for a better nation and a different world, all of which qualities resonate with the core values of palliative care. 

Pope Francis was elected as the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere in 1500 years. This pioneering Pope models his Christianity, and in particular the values of charity and compassion, through his everyday actions, public speeches and lifestyle choices. He has been a vocal supporter of the rights of poor and marginalised people, including the rights of elderly people to quality healthcare. He has yet to specifically mention palliative care. 

ehospice reported on a number of significant events from the world of hospice and palliative care over the part year: 

  • Dr Zipporah Ali, Executive director of the Kenya Hospice Palliative Care Association (KHPCA) received an honorary doctorate from Oxford Brookes University.
  • The EAPC Atlas of Palliative Care in Europe was launched at the EAPC congress in Prague.
  • This congress also saw the Prague charter, a document calling on governments to recognise palliative care as a human right, presented to the Czech Minister of Health on behalf on the European Parliament. 
  • Ministers of Health and their representatives from over 14 African countries signed a consensus statement on the integration of palliative care into healthcare systems in Africa at the APCA/HPCA conference in Johannesburg. 
  • ehospice celebrated a year of publishing on 2 October, with more than 100 000 unique visitors to the site. Two months later, at the end of the year, we have had almost 194 000 unique visitors. 
  • World Hospice and Palliative Care Day was observed around the world, with the theme of: ‘Palliative care: Dispelling the myths’. Local services and national and regional organisations took part in activities aimed at communicating the correct facts about hospice and palliative care. 
  • Tireless advocacy work led the WHO to ammend its definition of Universal Health Coverage to include palliative care. 
  • Professor Anne Merriman received the: ‘Presidential award for distinguished service by the Irish abroad’ in recognition of her lifetime of service to others through her work in palliative care. 
  • Russian doctor, Alevtina Khorinyak was charged with illegal trafficking of potent substances and forgery of documents for helping a terminally ill man, who was in constant severe pain, obtain opioid pain medicines. Human Rights Watch has called for the Russian government to drop the charges. 
  • A groundbreaking report: ‘Assessment of the need for palliative care for children. Three country report: South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe‘ was launched in November. The report is a collaboration between ICPCN and UNICEF, and sets out a methodology that can be customised to assess need for children’s palliative care in any country and to estimate the global need. 
  • In the UK, the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care has called on hospices to adapt and diversify in order to prepare for the opportunities and challenges they will face in the future. 

At ehospice we have had a busy year bringing you the latest hospice and palliative care news from around the world. We invite you to be part of ehospice in 2014. Tell us what is happening in your service or area, or contribute as an author or photographer. Email the editor to find out how. 

ehospice will be back online on 2 January 2014. 

We wish you a joyous festive season and a happy new year!

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