Published on: May 16, 2020

Revd Dr Hamilton Inbadas, Honorary Research Fellow, Glasgow End of Life Studies Group, University of Glasgow, writes:

As part of the Glasgow End of Life Studies Group’s ‘Global Interventions at the End of Life’ project, I have been leading a stream of research that focused on the emergence and spread of ‘declarations’ as a form of intervention. Beginning with mapping the terrain of advocacy documents under the broad categories of ‘palliative care’ and ‘euthanasia/assisted dying’ we undertook an exploration of how palliative care is represented in ‘declarations on end of life issues’.[1],[2],[3]

The question of the actual impact of these declarations has been fundamental all along. We decided to focus our attention on what I consider the most notable advocacy document on end of life issues, ‘the WHA Resolution 2014’, and analyse its early impact. Dr José Miguel Carrasco from ATLANTES Research Group, University of Navarra, Spain, worked with us leading this piece of work. We are delighted that our study is now published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.

When the WHA Resolution was adopted in 2014 there was much excitement among Palliative Care activists around from around the world. This was felt in India as well. A short piece published in Pallium India’s blog just after the adoption of the resolution was titled: ‘You may not know it; but your life has been changed on 23 May 2014‘, illustrating the level expectation on what might follow.

What has been the impact of the WHA Resolution in India? Sure enough, Palliative care in India has improved in the years since 2014. But all who know the palliative care landscape in India will quickly recognise that this growth is nowhere near the real need for palliative care in the country. More importantly, the growth of palliative care still depends on the initiatives and programmes of palliative care activists, who relentlessly plan and execute the promotion of palliative care within their means and supporting one another.

If there had been one marked difference due to a Resolution from WHO, it would have been that palliative care gets well into the list of priorities at all levels of governance in the country. From what is observed so far, we are still waiting for the day when palliative care becomes part of the agenda of our governments without the palliative care activists constantly having to battle for attention from authorities. Of course, governments need the palliative care community’s help. However, this working together should be because the nationwide improvement of palliative care is of particular importance for both parties.

So, has our life changed because of the WHA Resolution? I would have liked to hear an almighty ‘yes’, at least from the palliative care community in India, if not from the general population. But then ‘declarations’ can only ‘call upon’ members to act, they cannot ‘require’ action. Clearly, there is more work to be done to constantly bringing to the attention of our governments the importance of palliative care as the global recognition of end of life issues continues to rise.


[1] Inbadas, H., Zaman, S., Whitelaw, A. and Clark, D., 2016. Palliative care declarations: mapping a new form of intervention. Journal of pain and symptom management, 52(3), pp.e7-e15.

[2] Inbadas, H., Zaman, S., Whitelaw, S. and Clark, D., 2017. Declarations on euthanasia and assisted dying. Death studies, 41(9), pp.574-584.

[3] Inbadas, H., Carrasco, J.M. and Clark, D., 2020. Representations of palliative care, euthanasia and assisted dying within advocacy declarations. Mortality, 25(2), pp.138-150.

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