Death without suffering
One of the pioneers of palliative care in the country, Dr M R Rajagopal, recently released the book Walk with the Weary: Lessons in humanity in health care
KOCHI: The question about the final journey is something all of us would have pondered over at least once in this lifetime. But the more you explore it — spiritually or philosophically — we come to realise death needn’t always be looked at in fear. Rather, it can be accepted as a reality of life. You can approach death in bliss, devoid of any suffering. This is the context of the book recently published by one of the pioneers of palliative care in India, Dr M R Rajagopal.
‘Walk with the Weary: Lessons in humanity in health care’ comprises memories related to palliative care from Rajagopal, who is also the founder chairman of Pallium India, an organisation that empowers patients to face death without fear.
“People do not want to think about death, but it is inevitable. It is not an enemy we need to fight. Children should grow up seeing death as a natural consequence of life,” he says.
By narrating his experiences with patients and sharing their stories, Rajagopal is proposing the need for a health care system that is equipped to treat suffering and not just diseases. “The health care system must learn to accept death as an inevitable consequence of life and avoid needless interventions. Isolation is cruel. One should be able to pass through the final moments in peace, surrounded by family in a familiar environment,” says Rajagopal.
He believes humanity has taken a backseat in the current healthcare system. “Public awareness is necessary on the need for palliative care,” he says. In 1993, he set up the Pain and Palliative Care Society in the Government Medical College in Kozhikode. This allowed OP facility for palliative care.
Soon, such units were set up in other parts. In 2002, the Institute of Palliative Medicine was established in the hospital. With this, inpatient facility was also made possible. Rajagopal then went on to establish Pallium India in 2003. In 2006 he established the Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences (TIPS). Making palliative care a part of the medical curriculum in 2019 came as another achievement. But there is much more to be done, he says. Every month, as many as 2000 people seek palliative care in the capital at the TIPS.
The vision is to ensure a health care system where there is no needless suffering and ensure that across India, says Rajagopal. Corporates have driven a wedge between patients and doctors, and patients lack support systems, he says.