At this moment, over a million people in India are in unimaginable pain. We refuse to look the other way. We choose to hear the cry, and to do what we can.
Please join us. Your help is needed.

Assisted suicide or relief from suffering?

2014 November 19

Brittany Maynard, who became the public face of the controversial right-to-die movement over the last few weeks, ended her own life on November 1 at her home in Portland, Oregon. She had announced her decision to die by taking a fatal dose of barbiturates, prescribed to her by a doctor.

29-year old Maynard said goodbye in a message to her friends and family on Facebook before taking her own life.

Doctors gave Maynard six months to live earlier this year after diagnosing her with a form of brain cancer. She publicly announced her intention to move to Oregon so she could undergo physician-assisted suicide under the state’s Death With Dignity Act.

“My glioblastoma is going to kill me and that’s out of my control,” she said about her decision. “I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. So being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.”

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Quite understandably, people feel for her and ask us, whether we do not agree that she has taken the right decision. Our response is, it is the right decision for her. In the state to which she and her family moved, the society had agreed that she had a right to take this decision and the law had decided to permit it. The natural question is, if it is right for Oregon, should it not be right for us?

And we say, No.

We say No because, Brittany’s choice came after she had the choice of getting palliative care. This is the essential difference between USA and India – whatever be the shortcomings, the US system does provide for palliative care, while in our country, only a tiny minority of people have access to it. Under these circumstances, we should not go by the sensational decision of one person; but should rather take into consideration the mute suffering of millions in our country who are deprived of pain relief.

We repeat, we strongly believe that it is unethical for India to discuss assisted suicide, without first providing palliative care.

Palliative care in Bangladesh’s national plan for non-communicable diseases

2014 November 18

bangladesh“In Bangladesh, with its population of about 160 million people, the burden of NCDs has been rising at an alarming pace,” writes Dr. Rumana Dowla, Chairperson of the Bangladesh Palliative and Supportive Care Foundation. “In a review of 23 developing countries, Bangladesh had the ninth highest age-standardized mortality due to chronic diseases, such as primary cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.”

Dr Rumana Dowla represented the IAHPC at the WHO 67th session of the Regional Committee for South East Asia on 9-12 September 2014. She worked with officials from the Ministry of Health and succeeded in including palliative care in the national plan for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

Read the news at IAHPC’s website:

No time to provide palliative care; we are busy discussing euthanasia.

2014 November 13

A report in the Times of India dated November 5, 2014 states that “shame and pain caused by an ailment was the reason for one in every five suicides in India last year.”

The report continues, “… data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau show that 26,426 people in the country suffering from various ailments, including cancer, AIDS and paralysis, chose to end their lives in 2013. Tamil Nadu had the highest number of suicides linked to illness in 2013, with 4,362 people taking the extreme step.”

In palliative care units, it not uncommon to find patients requesting euthanasia. When you look for the reason behind the question, most of the time it is, “I cannot bear this pain” (or other suffering). Once that problem is tackled, most of them get back to the business of living and the wish to die ends. If we are able to bring a little relief to those who are suffering, and if we are able to help them find meaning to their lives during their last days, many of them would not be driven to such an extreme step.

But we are busy discussing the merits and demerits of mercy-killing without trying to offer them a little relief from their suffering!

Read the report in the Times of India.

Human Rights Watch honors Chairman of Pallium India

2014 November 11

Dr M. R. Rajagopal, Chairman of Pallium India, was honored by Human Rights Watch with the Alison Des Forges award for Extraordinary Activism on November 9. In the first of the Voices for Justice dinners held in Santa Barbara, Dr Rajagopal and Shin Dong-Hyuk from North Korea were honored by Human Rights Watch. (Click here for a few pictures from the event.)

HRW Award-MRRDr Rajagopal spoke about how, as a medical student, he was much affected and grieved by the screams of a neighbor who was suffering from cancer. “When I became a doctor, I chose anesthesiology – so that I could treat pain,” said Dr Rajagopal. “There has been little interest in caring for people who could not be cured. Most of them die appalling deaths, abandoned by the healthcare system.” Dr Rajagopal expressed gratitude to Human Rights Watch for the honor and also for their support in bringing relief and comfort and dignity to so many in India.

Dr M. R. Rajagopal’s work over nearly twenty years has contributed to development of India’s National Program in Palliative Care (NPPC) in 2012 and to the Amendment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of India in 2014.

The second of the Voices for Justice dinners will be held at Los Angeles on November 11.

Click here to see pictures shared on Facebook.

HRW Award-Santa Barbara

How others see India’s Healthcare system

2014 November 4

A report in the Guardian titled “How sick are the world’s healthcare systems?” dated 29 October 2014, highlights the pros and cons of healthcare systems in eight different countries, including India.

‘Public or private, India’s health care system is largely unregulated’
…Mazes of dingy corridors, outdated equipment and filthy wards where linens are absent and rats run freely greet the desperately poor and sick patients seeking care.
…India spends just 1.3% of GDP on healthcare, one of the lowest rates in the world. 
…According to a 2011 study in the Lancet medical journal, 39 million Indians are pushed into poverty every year due to medical costs, a fact that possibly explains why even Britain’s imperfect and overburdened NHS seems like a dream to many here.

We hope reports like these would bring to light the difficulties faced by ordinary people around the world in their efforts to remain healthy. Also that these would pave the way for a positive change in the way the world perceives healthcare.

Read the complete report by Guardian’s correspondents in China, Brazil, South Africa, the United States, Germany etc.