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"Palliative care improves the patient's quality of life, increases survival and also saves costs for the attendance healthcare system".

Experts defend the value of palliative care at workshop organised by the University of Navarra on the day before the vote on the new euthanasia law.

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From left to right, Carla Reigada, José María Torralba, Carlos Centeno and Marina Martínez, speakers at workshop. PHOTO: Manuel Castells
16/12/20 17:05 Maria Salanova

"Contrary to the myth, palliative care is not about being drugged with morphine until the end". Dr Ana Serrano, doctor in Palliative Care at Clínica Universidad de Navarra, has analysed the main myths about palliative care as a treatment intended only for dying patients, in the last moment of their lives. In reality, palliative care is part of the integral treatment process for patients, where "all professionals should be involved and in the place the patient prefers, even at home".

Serrano has participated, together with other experts, in a workshop organised by the high school Core Curriculum of the University of Navarra entitled "Science and values of palliative care". A meeting that takes place one day before the new law on euthanasia is to be voted on at congress .  

For his part, Dr. Carlos Centeno, director of Palliative Medicine at the Clinic and of the research Atlantes team at Institute for Culture and Society, recalled that more than twenty clinical trials have analyzed how palliative care improves the patient's quality of life, reduces their level of anxiety and depression, and improves their mood, as well as saving costs at the hospital attendance . "Palliative medicine does not focus only on the treatment of the disease, but offers comprehensive care, including the family," he pointed out.

In this sense, the clinical psychologist of Palliative Care Marina Martínez explained that "almost everyone has a sick acquaintance in these situations, and we may think that our presence may bother them. However, we should take the step of accompanying them with authenticity, closeness and respect". 

Lack of discussion

Dr Centeno addressed the issue of euthanasia, calling for understanding for patients and their relatives who ask financial aid to die. At the same time, he explained that "when we listen to them openly, what they are asking for is the security of attendance, financial aid to free themselves from pain, fear or anguish, and not to prolong their suffering. And in all this we can help". Dr Centeno also drew attention to the lack of discussion in view of the upcoming vote on the euthanasia law, which has been processed quickly and without space for experts to present their views, such as, for example, that of the National Bioethics committee .

The workshop, which was attended by more than 500 participants, concluded with an analysis of the contribution of palliative care to society in a roundtable in which Carla Reigada, social worker and researcher at group Atlantes, and José María Torralba, director of high school Core Curriculum took part, stressing that human dignity shines through in a special way in the activity of caring for another person. The problem," he pointed out, "is the dominant utilitarian mentality, for which caring is a waste of time, because life is seen in core topic of performance and success. Our society needs to recover the awareness that we are weak beings in need of care".