What is Palliative Care?

The word “palliative care” is derived from a Latin word ‘pallium’, which means ‘to cloak’.  It symbolises a cover that “cloaks” the symptoms and thereby offer comfort, quality of life and hope.

World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises ‘Palliative Care’ as “the active total care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment.

Control of pain, of other symptoms, and of psychological, social and spiritual problems is paramount.

The goal of palliative care is the achievement of the best possible quality of life for patients and their families.”

  • It affirms life and regards dying as a normal process
  • It neither hastens nor postpones death
  • It provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • It integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care
  • It offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death
  • It offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement.

The Indian Scenario

India is a union of 30 States and 6 Union Territories, with an estimated population of 1.2 billion. India is the world’s second most populous country after the People’s Republic of China. India occupies 2.4 percent of the world’s land surface area and is home to 17.5 percent of the world’s population.  India has 641,000 inhabited villages and 72.2 percent of the total population reside in the rural areas. 


Palliative Care is a developing Specialty in India which needs to be highlighted to the general public who don’t know about the benefits of it. At the moment there are nearly 600 Palliative Care Centres in India of which the majority are in Kerala. There is a huge need to expand Palliative Care in the whole of India. At the moment no one gets good quality palliative care in most parts of India.

The poor die in neglect because there is no one to look after them at the time of death, the middle class die in ignorance because they are unaware of its benefits and they could pay for palliative care services if they were available but at the moment in a market health care system, there is no one selling palliative care as there is no one buying palliative care.  The rich die in agony on a ventilator because there is no understanding of terminal care and prognosis and patients with very poor prognosis who are not appropriate for resuscitation end up on a ventilator with no benefit to them and considerable distress.


We have to change this terrible situation.   We need to develop education and training centres of Palliative Care across India working.  We also need Out Patient Community Palliative Care Clinics across the whole of India with facility to develop Home Visits and Hospices. This will improve Palliative Care across India.

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