"We have to concern ourselves with the quality of life as well as its length"
Dame Cicely Saunders -

Palliative care provides relief to patients suffering from a life-limiting illness, primarily through pain management and other symptom management. Palliative care neither hastens death, nor postpones it. The goal is not to cure, but to provide comfort and maintain the highest possible quality of life for as long as life remains. Palliative care may be delivered in hospice and home care settings or in hospitals, and can be applied to any type of life-limiting illness, although cancer patients remain the most common case referred to by doctors to hospices.

Regarded as a holistic form of care because it addresses the psychological, psychosocial, and spiritual needs just as importantly as it addresses the physical needs of a patient, palliative care became important after 1967 when the first modern hospice, St. Christopher's Hospice was established in UK. It was the founder of St. Christopher's Hospice, Dame Cicely Saunders who conceived the concept of ‘total pain’. Dame Cicely believed in caring for the whole person and enfolding their family and friends within that care. This led to the development of palliative care as a new medical specialty.

In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined palliative care as "an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual."

WHO further elaborated that palliative care:-

  • provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
  • affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
  • intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
  • integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
  • offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
  • offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement;
  • uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling,
  • will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
  • is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications

To date, the total number of hospices or palliative care institutions in the world stands at a staggering 8,000, and these include hospice inpatient units, hospital-based palliative care services, community-based teams and day care centres.

Click HERE to learn more about palliative care in Hospis Malaysia.