Palliative care in Pakistan

Robyna Irshad Khan

Abstract

Pakistan is a developing country of South East Asia, with all the incumbent difficulties currently being faced by the region. Insufficient public healthcare facilities, poorly regulated private health sector, low budgetary allocation for health, improper priority setting while allocating limited resources, have resulted essentially in an absence of palliative care from the healthcare scene. Almost 90% of healthcare expenditure is out of the patient’s pocket with more than 45% of population living below the poverty line. All these factors have a collective potential to translate into an end-of-life care disaster as a large percentage of population is suffering from chronic debilitating/terminal diseases. So far, such a disaster has not materialised, the reason being a family based culture emphasising the care of the sick and old at home, supported by religious teachings. This culture is not limited to Pakistan but subsists in the entire sub-continent, where looking after the sick/elderly at home is considered to be the duty of the younger generation. With effects of globalisation, more and more older people are living alone and an increasing need for palliative care is being realised. However, there does not seem to be any plan on the part of the public or private sectors to initiate palliative care services. This paper seeks to trace the social and cultural perspectives in Pakistan with regards to accessing palliative care in the context of healthcare facilities available.

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