“Palliative care is about improving the quality of life for patients and their families facing life threatening illness.”
“Sensitive and honest communication between healthcare workers and patients is a vital aspect of palliative care.”
– Prof Sushma Bhatnagar, co-leader of the Lien Collaborative’s Bangladesh program and palliative care specialist from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Bangladesh, a densely populated country of over 160 million people, has made strides in the development of palliative care despite the difficulties it faces. It is among a handful of countries in Asia which recognises palliative medicine as a specialty. Today, affordable oral morphine that patients can bring home to take and use is being produced and distributed in Bangladesh. Major government institutions like the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and Dhaka Medical College Hospital, which are in the process of building up their palliative care services, will become the teaching centres in palliative care in the future.
According to the Global Atlas of Palliative Care, published jointly by the WHO and the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA), Bangladesh suffers from inadequate access and availability of hospice and palliative care. Its palliative care activities are heavily donor dependent and hence unsustainable.
The usage of morphine is generally low with annual average consumption of less than 5mg/capita, well below world average, contrary to the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of oral morphine as the gold standard and essential medication for pain relief that should be available to suffering patients. The scarcity of palliative care and pain relief medicines in Asian countries like Bangladesh are compounded by other socio-economic issues such as poverty, high patient load and overcrowding at public hospitals and healthcare facilities.