Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is a priority of the “Sustainable Development” objectives programmed until 2030 by WHO (see HERE). Aspects to cover include vaccinations, pre- and neonatal care, antiretroviral treatments and treatments for some serious diseases. They do not, however, include palliative care.
Palliative care is one of the most overlooked medical aspects within universal health coverage. In order to try to alleviate this, the Lancet Commission in palliative care was constituted (see Lancet report Alleviating the access abyss in palliative care and pain relief—an imperative of universal health coverage HERE) to try to resolve these grave oversights (see HERE).
Who neglects universal access to palliative care explanation
What, though, are the reasons for this neglect of palliative care? There are two main explanations: The first is that palliative care is sometimes seen as a luxury in health care systems, even in developed countries. Second, even in developed countries in which palliative care is available, there is sometimes an arduous debate on the role of these medical services in the final moments of life of many patients.
The dignity of the suffering human person, and consequently the need to relieve that suffering, is at the foundation of the necessity of an adequate promotion of palliative care in the world.
The Lancet commission shows that both reasons are fallacies, and proposes a series of measures:
- To define which medical conditions are suitable to be attended in palliative care units.
- To make an appeal to more seriously consider the need to relieve pain and suffering at times in which human conditions are very limited.
- To raise awareness that the economic investment in palliative care is worthwhile.
- To promote collective actions to achieve the goals proposed by the Commission.
To all this, we would add that, apart from these material measures, furthering the consideration of the dignity of the suffering human person, and consequently the need to relieve that suffering, is at the foundation of the not always adequate promotion of palliative care in the world, because a primary goal of medicine is that, if it cannot be cured, it should at least relieve the suffering of patients, especially those who are living the final moments of their lives.