Palliative care experts, oncologists and social scientists explored the role of spirituality in improving the quality of palliative care provided for patients with prolonged or terminal illnesses at a seminar that concluded last week in the University of Madras, South India. The two-day seminar held under the aegis of the Department of Christian Studies at the University, had participants analyzing the various factors that undermine the confidence and morale of terminally ill patients and their families.
Pain and other debilitating physical symptoms coupled with spiritual distress, challenge the patients, their families and caregivers. Religion can provide an opportunity for them to come to terms with the disease and the disability, observed the participants. Dr. George M. Chandy, Professor of Gastroenterology and former Director of CMC, Vellore who gave the keynote address, shared his experiences as a medical practitioner and a caregiver. Given the pain and the suffering, he said it was indeed distressing for patients and their relatives to mutely accept the ailments.
Dr. Chandy explained how patients diagnosed with prolonged or life-limiting illness go through phases of denial, aggression, entertainment, withdrawal and acceptance. Palliative care needs to include spirituality to address the patient's fear of the unknown and try to boost the patient's morale at every stage of the illness.
Dr. G. Patrick, Head of the Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras said currently two research scholars in the department were exploring the role of religion and terminal illness in their studies. Social Welfare Minister of Tamil Nadu P. Geetha Jeevan inaugurated the seminar and urged NGOs to spread awareness on government healthcare schemes—especially about the supply of anti retroviral drugs for persons with HIV/AIDS.