End-of-life care

November 02, 2018

We just remembered our dead, but we should also take care of loved ones who are at the end-stage of their lives.

You say universal health care?

Make it a total package, please.

Terminally ill patients deserve the best medical care as other seriously ill and even moderately sick patients.

We even dare say that they should be allowed to depart this world with the least pain and suffering.

And so we agreae and support a humanitarian initiative of a very discerning lawmaker.

Palliative and end of life care services to patients with life-threatening diseases would soon be covered by Philhealth once the Universal Health Care bill is passed into law.

Under the proposed measure, "every Filipino shall be granted immediate eligibility and access to preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative health services."

"Our healthcare system should not only work on curing and preventing sickness, it should also promote people's well-being, especially when they are enduring intense pain and suffering from chronic diseases. This measure guarantees the right of Filipinos to quality health care throughout their entire life cycle," said Senator Sonny Angara, one of the authors and sponsors of the Universal Health Care bill.

Palliative and end of life care aim to improve the quality of life of patients with life-limiting, complex and chronic illnesses or those experiencing progressively debilitating diseases beyond any benefit from curative treatment.

The lawmaker cited a 2015 Quality of Death study index that listed the Philippines as one of the worst places to die, next only to Iraq and Bangladesh.

The poor scores of the Philippines, which ranked 78th out of 80 countries, in terms of the quality of end-of-life care available was attributed to: the severe shortage of specialized palliative care professionals; lack of government-led strategy for the development and promotion of national palliative care; limited number of government subsidies or programs for individuals accessing palliative care services; and, limited public understanding and awareness of palliative care services.

According to the World Health Organization, the following diseases require palliative care at the end-stage of life: cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic lung diseases, diabetes, tuberculosis, kidney failure, HIV-AIDS, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, among others.

Data from WHO showed that in 2012, about 300,000 of the estimated 515,000 reported deaths in the Philippines were due to noncommunicable diseases such as stroke, heart attack, cancer, chronic lung disease, and diabetes.

"These diseases impose costs that are not only financial, but also emotional, social, and psychological, to the patients and their families," Angara said.

"Maaaring wala nang lunas ang kanilang karamdaman at paghihirap, pero hindi ito dahilan para itigil natin ang pagkalinga sa kanila. The Universal Health Care bill is a step forward in ensuring that every Filipino family can be given proper care and assistance during the most challenging stages of illness," he added.