‘There is no need to suffer pain even if illness is life-threatening’

Namrata Devikar
Saturday, 13 October 2018

In an exclusive interview with Sakal Times, Dr Priyadarshini Kulkarni, a senior Palliative Care Physician from Pune, highlights the need to create awareness among citizens about palliative care on the occasion of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day which falls on October 13.

In an exclusive interview with Sakal Times, Dr Priyadarshini Kulkarni, a senior Palliative Care Physician from Pune, highlights the need to create awareness among citizens about palliative care on the occasion of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day which falls on October 13.

Dr Kulkarni who also heads ‘Ease and Support’ which delivers palliative care consultative services,  has been chosen to head the new Maharashtra-India chapter of the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation (EKRF), a US-based international charity. 

What is palliative care?
Palliative care is a medical speciality, which aims to provide comfort to patients suffering from serious illness and to support their families. Along with effective management of pain and symptoms, the palliative care physician tries to understand what is most important for patients and their families. The physician guides them to take decisions after sharing realistic treatment options.

What is the significance of this day?
The second Saturday of October is observed as World Hospice and Palliative Care Day. The theme this year is ‘Palliative Care – Because I Matter!’ It highlights the importance of listening to patients and their families going through the experience of serious illness. Many patients do not get access to palliative care. This day is an opportunity to raise awareness of this issue and to engage organisations and individuals to work towards providing palliative care for everyone who needs it.

What are barriers in India?
There is lack of awareness in the community. Each person needs to know that even if the illness is chronic or life-threatning, there is no need to suffer pain. Secondly, every doctor needs to be educated in the basics of pain management. There is a great need for specialised palliative services in our country. 

Will the EKRF chapter be working towards the same goal?
Very much. The EKRF is inspired by the life of psychiatrist, humanitarian and hospice pioneer, Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. She originally outlined the five stages of grief, which helps us gain an insight into the emotional and social experience of dying or the death of a loved one. Through Ease and Support, I am happy to start their first chapter in Maharashtra. Our goal would be to promote compassionate care for the seriously ill.  

What are the new developments in palliative care?
With effect from 2012, Palliative Medicine has been given the status of a recognised specialty of medicine. The National Health Policy of 2017 included palliative care as an essential part of healthcare. The AIIMS has joined hands with Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network to provide training programmes tailored to the Cancer Treatment Centres in India. This has the support of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This is a part of the National Programme for Palliative Care, which mandates that all institutions dealing with cancer and non-communicable diseases must provide palliative care services. 

Globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has published three guides on Integrating Palliative Care into Health Care: WHO Guides for Planners, Implementers and Managers. These guides aim to provide practical guidance on integrating palliative care and symptom relief with healthcare systems. 

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