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.
Each year, an estimated 40 million people are in need of such care globally, but only about 14 percent of them currently have access to it.Recently, Dr Bimalangshu Dey, a world-renowned bone marrow transplant specialist, who is an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, USA, talked to The Daily Star in this regard.
Born in Chatak upazila of Sunamganj in Bangladesh, Dr Bimalangshu was among the pioneers in setting up the only bone marrow transplant unit in Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Question No 1:- Palliative care is a comparatively new branch of healthcare. It is also not so much familiar in Bangladesh. Please, tell us about it.
Dr Dey Anser:
There are many diseases that are incurable. In fact, there are millions of people around the world who will ultimately become seriously ill. Palliative care is for terminally ill patients. This concept started with cancer treatment. However, it can be applicable to patients with advanced cardiac, lung and kidney failures; advanced stroke patients and patients with advanced stage sicklemia and thalassemia — all non-communicable diseases.
Question No 2:- How useful is it for patients?
Dr Dey Anser:
Many patients, yes, [perhaps] they will die in three, six or twelve months. The purpose of palliative care is to relieve their pain or sufferings. This pain could be physical, mental, cultural, psychological or emotional. The function of palliative care is to make the patients [and family members] understand that death and dying are universal; we have no choice but to accept them as a phase of life rather than the end. If we could accept it, we will be able to use our imagination, love and compassion. This would eventually ease the dying process.