KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 – Hospis Malaysia launched a campaign to advocate the right of the dying to pass on with dignity.
The palliative care awareness campaign titled “Speak Up – Because I Matter” by the non-governmental organisation (NGO), which provides palliative care in the Klang Valley, in conjunction with Palliative Care Awareness Month this April features stories of patients with life-limiting illnesses and highlights palliative care practitioners’ work.
“We need to recognise that those who are at the end of life matter just as much as a child or an adult in his prime of life,” Hospis Malaysia chairwoman Datin Kathleen Chew said in a speech at the launch of the campaign.
“To live well must include dying well. And this is not wishful thinking. At Hospis Malaysia we know that it is possible that with appropriate support, dying does not have to be a chaotic, fear-ridden and painful experience. In fact, families can be well-supported and death can even be meaningful,” she added.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye, who officiated the event, cited a Hospis Malaysia 2016 study that said more than 56,000 Malaysians would require palliative care each year, but currently less than 10 percent of this need was met.
He added that six public hospitals had palliative care specialists, but acknowledged that the government still lacked a comprehensive strategy to deal with the dying.
Dr Lee also noted that the World Health Organisation and the United Nations’ sustainable development goals have called for the inclusion of palliative care to deal with non-communicable diseases and to be included as part of universal health coverage.
“The government is committed to delivering palliative care as part of universal healthcare as all Malaysians are affected directed or indirectly by the various life limiting diseases,” he said.
Chew pointed out that there were far fewer advocates and the government provided less resources for the dying that affect patients suffering from serious illnesses like cancer, organ failure, HIV/AIDS, late stage Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or motor-neuron disease.
“Do people at the end of life matter less? Do we not also have a social obligation to ensure that every person has a right to joy and meaning in their lives till the very end?” Chew questioned.
She said Hospis Malaysia has trained medical graduates from both public and private schools, while the Health Ministry’s trainee palliative care specialists spent six months with the NGO.
“On his deathbed, faced with creditors and unpaid bills, Oscar Wilde said despairingly, ‘I am dying beyond my means!’ He died on 30 November 1900.
“It is my hope that more than a century later, we can build a strong eco-system in partnership with the Ministry of Health, other palliative healthcare organisations and private sector organisations that will ensure that every person has the right to die well,” said Chew.