Wednesday, October 10, 2007

WHO's guide on palliative care

Palliative care is for any terminal illness, but often seems to focus on cancer. This is likely because this is the disease with which most of us are familiar. The important thing to take away from the discussion about palliative care is that it almost always is also applicable to other terminal illnesses. While certain symptoms or physical issues may be different, there are more similarities than differences when it comes to end-of-life care.

This month, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a new guide on palliative care for those who are dying of cancer in the developing nations. You can find a copy of this guide at the WHO website. On page 2, you will find the Key Messages:

“Palliative care is an urgent humanitarian need worldwide
for people with cancer and other chronic fatal diseases.
Palliative care is particularly needed in places where a
high proportion of patients present in advanced stages
and there is little chance of cure.

Ideally, palliative care services should be provided from
the time of diagnosis of life-threatening illness, adapting
to the increasing needs of cancer patients and their
families as the disease progresses into the terminal
phase. They should also provide support to families in
their bereavement.

Effective palliative care services are integrated into the
existing health system at all levels of care, especially
community and home-based care. They involve the
public and the private sector and are adapted to the
specifi c cultural, social and economic setting.

In order to respond to the cancer priority needs in a
community and make the best use of scarce resources,
palliative care services should be strategically linked to
cancer prevention, early detection and treatment services
for both adults and children.”

The guide is very interesting reading and I encourage anyone who is interested in the institution of palliative care in the developing world to read it. The authors review the social context of palliative care plan, gaps in services, assessment of the feasibility of services, priorities, planning, and organization.

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