With an increased need for special care for thousands of terminal patients, the government should integrate a palliative care (PC) course into the medical and nursing education curriculum, speakers at a discussion said on Wednesday night.
Highlighting the grim scenario of palliative care in the country and legal restrictions to get strong painkillers like morphine for patients, they also urged the government to ease the restrictions.
Ayat Education, a charitable organisation, arranged the conversation titled “Dignifying Life Thru Palliative Care” at a city hotel.
Palliative care is interdisciplinary specialised medical and nursing care for people with prolonged illness for non-communicable diseases like cancer, which focuses on providing relief from the symptoms, including pain, and physical and mental stress.
Evidence supports the efficacy of palliative care approach in improvement of a patient’s quality of life.
At the 67th World Health Assembly in 2014, member states of World Health Organization (WHO) agreed to strengthen palliative care as a component of comprehensive care throughout the life course.
However, this patient-focused approach is still under-addressed globally, especially in low-and middle-income countries, according to a number of studies.
Government high-ups from the health sector, and healthcare professionals and experts from home and abroad spoke at Wednesday’s event, highlighting different aspects and latest trends of palliative care.
In his presentation, Dr Stephen R Cornor, executive director of The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA), said many people who need palliative care are not getting it due to different barriers.
Referring to different studies, Dr Cornor said only 14 percent patients in need of palliative care (out of around 40 million globally) have access to it, while at least 18 million die in extreme pain.
“Death doesn’t have to be defeated. Rather it should be given a human touch through adding soul to the dying person,” Dr Bimalangshu Dey, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in his presentation.
“Palliative care focuses on patient, not on medicine… and family. It not only heals but also increases life span,” he added.
He termed 53mg permissible amount of morphine for a patient who is undergoing palliative care in Bangladesh “social injustice”, claiming it to be far too low.
Prof Dr Nezamuddin Ahmad, former chairman of the department of palliative medicine at Bangandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, spoke of the evolution of palliative care which was first adopted as a discipline at UK hospitals in 1984.
In Bangladesh, there are only two palliative care units -- BSMMU and Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Speaking as special guest, health secretary Ashadul Islam said, “Health sector is one of the priorities in development programme of the government.”
Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO representative to Bangladesh stressed on skilled workforce for palliative care to tackle increased non-communicable risk diseases, where nurses are on the “frontline”.
Physicians from different hospitals in Dhaka also participated in a question-answer session in the event.
Former finance minister AMA Muhith spoke at the event as guest of honour.
Anne-Marie Barron, associate dean at school of nursing and health sciences at Massachusetts General Hospital in USA; Nusrat Feroz Aman, chief patron of Ayat Foundation; and Tahsin Aman, chairperson of the foundation, also addressed the programme.