Ensuring a comfortable, dignified end

“A life well-lived deserves a good ending,” said Rifat Akhter, chairman of Aastha Hospice that has brought palliative care to the doorstep of underprivileged patients suffering from terminal diseases.

The one who can help a patient complete the last bit of journey on this earth with ease is a nurse. Her care and empathy can make the last few days comfortable but such services are often taken for granted in this country.

To recognise and appreciate the role of palliative care nurses, National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH) and Aastha jointly awarded 10 nurses yesterday, with support from World Child Cancer and Hospice Bangladesh.

At the award giving ceremony at NICRH auditorium in Dhaka, Rifat said the patients who need palliative care suffer from incurable diseases like cancer, kidney and heart complications or any kind of life-limiting illnesses.

While supporting them, nurses put “services above the self”, she said. The Palliative Care Nurse Award was an initiative taken up last year to acknowledge the dedication of palliative care nurses, especially those who provide home care services.

The awardees who received prize money of Tk 5,000 each with a certificate and a crest were from NICRH, Delta Medical College and Hospital, Dhaka Shishu Hospital, ASHIC Foundation, Dhaka Medical College and Hospital and Hospice Bangladesh.

Speaking as the chief guest, Moarraf Hossen, director of NICRH, said oncologists like him in many cases faced dead ends after exhausting all procedures of treatment — surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

About 80 percent of patients diagnosed with cancer seek treatment at the last stage, said Mofizul Islam, head of radiotherapy, NICRH. Not only a patient, but his/her entire family is affected following the diagnosis of a terminal illness, and so the family needs emotional and psychological support alongside palliative care for the patient, he added.

Aastha Hospice, a charity project of Hospice Bangladesh, provides these services to disadvantaged people throughout Bangladesh.

Shahinur Kabir, founder of Hospice Bangladesh, expressed hope that many people would come forward to support the project so that Aastha can expand its activities and more people are benefitted.

Megan Doherty, from World Child Cancer, who was present at the programme, said from her experience of working in Bangladesh, “They [nurses] have the motivation to take the healthcare system forward. The core skill of nursing is to listen to patients and I think we all as healthcare providers can learn from nurses.”

There is a popular saying of Swami Vivekananda that “One who loves a living being serves God.”

Nurses are doing exactly that, an observation made towards the end of the event.