Doctors want palliative care for terminally ill patients

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By Felicia.Imohimi

The World Medical Association (WMA), African region has called for strengthening of palliative care for patients with terminally ill ailments across Africa.

The association made the call in a communiqué issued at the end of its conference hosted by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) on Saturday in Abuja.

Palliative care entails alleviating the suffering of terminally ill patients, physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and emotionally.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the conference; “An Excursion into the End of Life Spectrum: Defining the boundaries between palliative care, euthanasia and physician-assisted-suicide.’’

Prof. Mike Ogirima, who read the communiqué, identified mechanisms toward strengthening palliative care to include, strengthening national policies for such care, increased funding, as well as, creating national and regional palliative care centres.

According to him, adopting such mechanisms will go a long way in ensuring the effectiveness of palliative care for patient with terminal diseases.

Ogirima said such efforts would reduce out of pocket expenditure of the patients and their relatives.

He said there were yet to be policies on “End-of-life issues’’ in most African countries, except in Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia where some initiatives have been taken on palliative care.

“We resolved that the care given to terminally ill patients should be encouraged and strengthened in all African countries with guidelines.

“Countries like Botswana and Zimbabwe are already implementing the guidelines, but we are yet to implement it in Nigeria,’’ he said.

The president, however, said African region rejected physicians assisted suicide and Euthanasia, describing them as contrary to the physician’s oath.

The oath stipulates “I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties even under threat’’, he said.

Euthanasia is ending the life of another person through various actions which included injecting the person, giving an overdose and withdrawal of food.

Ogrima also explained that physician assisted suicide is a practice where doctor provide patients with the knowledge to kill themselves which could be in form of drugs among others.

Countries that had legalised such practice include Switzerland and Netherland.

Ogirima, however, frowned at such practices, adding “WMA ethics of physicians does not permit us to take life’’.

“We Africans reject Euthanasia and physician-assisted-suicide. We cannot assist patients, who may wish to end their lives, because the law of the country and WMA ethics of physicians does not permit us to take life.’’

Similar, Otmar Kloiber, the Secretary- General of WMA urged physicians worldwide to chart a course toward the safety and security of terminally ill patients, rather than prolonging their sufferings.

He identified end of life as necessary care to comfort patients, take away pains and anxiety, urging all countries to channel adequate resources in this direction.

The secretary-general also identified inadequate resources for health as a major impediment to palliative care on the continent.

He, however, called for universal health coverage that guarantees health insurance.

According to him, such measure will provide palliative care coverage and a proper quality healthcare.

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