Meet a German pioneer in palliative care

2015 April 29
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Dr Rajagopal writes from Berlin:

It was a pleasure to get to know Prof. Dr. med. H.Christof Muller-Busch and to find the parallels and the contrasts between the stories in Germany and India. Dr Muller-Busch, an anaesthesiologist, says palliative care started in Germany in the 1980s but the progress was very slow till 1993 – exactly as it was in India. Since 1993, the progress in Germany has been in leaps and bounds.

Dr Muller-BuschThe German Government passed a law in 2007, which gives every citizen a right to specialised palliative care, but coverage today is only about 35%. Well, this did not happen in India, but in Kerala, the palliative care policy did come up in 2008, and the coverage would be rather similar.

Leaving the parallels alone, many things have become much more advanced in Germany. Undergraduate medical students get palliative care education. There are post-graduate certification courses, each of 150 hours. Dr Muller-Busch says, it is the most sort-after post graduate qualification, next only to emergency medicine. There is a new law coming up – hospice and palliative care law. Once this is passed, they expect there will be more money for palliative care. The law will also introduce advanced care planning.

A lot of discussion is going on in Germany regarding physician-assisted suicide. As it stands now, suicide is not a punishable offence in Germany, and hence assisted suicide may not be a big issue legally, in future.

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