Better care for terminal cancer patients


The World Health Orgaization (WHO) in Geneva has launched new guidelines to improve the care for the terminal cancer patients, particularly in developing countries where nearly two thirds of all deaths from the disease occur.

“Palliative care is an urgent need worldwide for people living with advanced stages of cancer,” said Dr. Catherine Le Gales- Camus, the WHO’s assistant director general for non-communicable diseases and mental health.

The need is particularly acute in the developing world, where over 70 percent of all cancer deaths occur and many people are only diagnosed after it is too late to receive treatment. Besides, many poor people could hardly afford hospitalization and clinical care by private physicians. When people know that their patient is sick with cancer, they would conclude immediately that it is hopeless and there’s nothing that could be done. So the cancer patient suffers so much with his physical, emotional, and spiritual pains.

Dr. Le Gales-Camus said in a statement that everyone has the right to be treated and to die with dignity. The relief of agonizing pain – be it physical, emotional, social, and spiritual – is a human right.

Many indigent cancer patients could not afford pain-killers like opiates. These patients are extremely stressed for anything, so much so that they suffer severe insomnia. Sleeping pills are given to them, but not always because they are expensive and addicting. These patients are left alone in their dark rooms until they die. Many relatives and friends mostly avoid getting near them.

It is really a great blessing if there are people in the community who are religiously educated (like the Good Samaritan), doing the corporal-works-of mercy; like visiting the patients, comforting the patients, giving them food and appropriate medicines, and getting a priest or minister to administer the necessary sacraments for the salvation of their souls when they die. And for sure, these patients would be very grateful for being the recipients of their services.

The WHO’s new guidelines are chiefly aimed at policy makers with the aim of both improving the quality of life of cancer patients and their families, and ensuring care is provided in an equitable and sustainable way.

These models consider the integration of palliative care services in the existing health and homebased care and would greatly benefit the terminal cancer sufferers or patients.