Palliative medicine: overview and statistics
According to the definition of WHO, “Palliative care is 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.”
The problem of palliative care was brought to light due to the development of modern technology which gave rise to the increasing number of incurable/ inoperable patients. Undoubtedly, palliative medicine is as necessary as modern technology, with both areas pursuing the same goals of prevention, relief and treatment of suffering. However, the correlation between using modern technology and providing palliative care to people with life-threatening illnesses is not always clear. We spend huge financial resources on the development of modern technology yet little is done to protect incurable people who seriously suffer from severe pain.
Palliative medicine. World practice. Around half of the 234 countries included in the survey conducted by International Observatory on End of Life Care (Lancaster University, UK) have established one or more hospice-palliative care services. Yet only 35 (15%) countries have achieved a measure of integration with wider mainstream service providers. In 78 (33%) countries, no palliative care activity can be identified.
Palliative medicine. Russia practice.Palliative care developments are now said to be under way, mostly in the hospital context, in all the regions of Russia. Yet the economic constraints of the 1990s have left health services chronically under-funded. In what is the largest geographic country of the world, the combined hospice and palliative care services are currently estimated at around 125 and the challenges are acknowledged as considerable.
Palliative medicine. Saratov region practice. In 2012 Saratov welcomed the opening of the first and the only regional center of palliative care. This center, however, includes only 15 beds for oncological patients, which does not really meet the requirements of the international standards (10 beds in palliative care center for each 10000 of population).
Palliative care in Russia leaves much to be desired. Poor statistics results from insufficient social concern about people who are left to stand alone in the face of a life-threatening illness. It is necessary to remember that sympathy and compassion are the most important values that the person possesses. As Richard Slone says: “The more a person suffers, the sooner he/she dies.” Palliative care is not only about treatment, it is about providing better quality of life for all patients, regardless of their diagnosis or financial resources.