Treat the Suffering: Palliative care is everyone's business


The lecture organised by RCI Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, IITPKD  will be conducted in English with Indian Sign Language (ISL) interpretation.  If the interpreter is not spotlighted along with the speaker, you may please pin the interpreter's tab for a seamless experience. If anyone requires  assistance in accessing the lecture without barriers, in addition to the  sign language, please get in touch with Dr Sudarshan R Kottai  at  by June 20, 2024. 

Bionote of the speaker  

Prof (Dr) Rajagopal is  one of the most decorated healers  in the world  who won many awards including the Padma Shri from the Government of India,  Human Rights Watch’s Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism  and nominations to the Nobel Prize for Peace for immense  contributions in humanising the practice of medicine and  facilitating access to pain relief in India. Prof (Dr) Rajagopal is the founder and  Chairperson of Pallium India, a pioneering NGO in the field of palliative care in India. Pallium India provides service delivery and training through the Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences (TIPS). It has been accredited as a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre (WHOCC) for Training and Policy on Access to Pain Relief.   Prof. M R Rajagopal, a great humanitarian and thought leader in health care and the protagonist in the award winning Amazon Prime Feature documentary, Hippocratic, is instrumental for ushering the community turn in palliative care in Kerala. During his stint  as Head of the Department of Anaesthesiology at Government Medical College, Kozhikode (formerly Calicut) in the 1990s, Prof Rajagopal  joined hands with the local community pioneering the community based  pain and palliative care movement in Kerala leading to the community turn in palliative care attracting global attention  as  the first  locally sustainable and culturally appropriate  palliative care system in the  developing world. In 1995, WHO recognised it as a demonstration model for palliative care delivery in low-middle income countries where people cutting across all strata continue to get involved including school/college teachers and students.  In 2008, Government of Kerala introduced a palliative care policy for the first time in India. 


Health is defined officially as  “physical, social and mental well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
As Eric Cassell said, “It is persons that suffer, not bodies”. But especially in the last half a century, health care has come to focus more and more on diseases and their treatment (whether or not the disease is curable) and not on suffering. In any major illness, the suffering can be physical ( pain, breathlessness, etc), emotional (depression, anxiety, guilt etc), social (broken relationships, financial, burden etc) or spiritual (“Why did God do this to me?”, “What's the point of me being alive?”, “I don’t belong here” etc).
A totally disease-focused treatment cannot possibly relieve most of such suffering. On the other hand, sometimes health care worsens suffering, say for example by catastrophic health expenditure or by inappropriate aggressive interventions at the end of life.
The solution, as the Astana declaration of World Nations proclaimed in 2018, is for the community to be partners in health care. There cannot be any community which does not get some pleasure out of helping others who are needy. Such people get together and look after suffering associated with major illnesses. The doctors may only prescribe medicines, ‘three times a day after food’; but the community will make sure that they get food to eat three times a day. Our volunteers in the community repair broken roofs, provide companionship and sometimes arrange for transportation and accompaniment of patients to hospitals and other facilities. And most importantly, they treat the cruel malady of loneliness and isolation.
Diseases will touch every one of us and our loved ones at some point of time. This is not about ‘them’; this is about ‘us’.