The Economist Intelligence Unit report, commissioned by Singapore nonprofit Lien Foundation, indicated that the Philippines, out of 80 countries, scored poorly in terms of the quality of end-of-life care available.
The report attributed the country’s dismal quality of death index to the severe shortage of specialized palliative care professionals, lack of government-led strategy for the development and promotion of national palliative care, limited number of government subsidies or programs for individuals accessing palliative care services, and limited public understanding and awareness of palliative care services.
To better appreciate what all this means it is best that we fully understand what palliative care is all about.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines palliative care as an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psycho-social and spiritual.
As there is palliative care for adults, so is there one intended for children.
To expound further, the following are what palliative care does for adults:
• provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
• affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
• intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
• integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
• offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
• offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement;
• uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated;
• will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
• is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.
And what it does for children are:
• Palliative care for children is the active total care of the child’s body, mind and spirit, and also involves giving support to the family.
• It begins when illness is diagnosed, and continues regardless of whether or not a child receives treatment directed at the disease.
• Health providers must evaluate and alleviate a child’s physical, psychological, and social distress.
• Effective palliative care requires a broad multidisciplinary approach that includes the family and makes use of available community resources; it can be successfully implemented even if resources are limited.
• It can be provided in tertiary care facilities, in community health centers and even in children’s homes.
At the onset you will perhaps notice that I said the report did not surprise me. Well, it is for the simple reason that my daughter works for Kythe Foundation, Inc., a non-profit, non-stock organization, whose Kythe Child Life Program aims at providing psycho-social support that alleviates the anxiety of pediatric patients who suffer from illness such as cancer, heart condition, kidney disease, and blood disorders. ( http://kythe.org/site/kythe-child-life-program/child-life-discipline/).
I am only privy to the sad predicament of sick children because this is her concern, and the reasons given above placing the country at the bottom rung among the worst place to die are true.
I can only wonder how bad it is for the gravely sick adults in hospitals.
It reminds me about an answer given by a friend when I asked him how the hospital in the town I used to live in Leyte was doing. He said it is just like one of the lyrics of the Mona Lisa song, saying, “They just lie there and they die there.”
It could not be farther from the truth.