Palliative care needs among patients with advanced illnesses in Bhutan

Publication Name

BMC Palliative Care


Background: Palliative care improves the quality of lives of patients and families affected by advanced illnesses through the prevention and relief of suffering. While palliative care is well established in developed countries, it is inadequate or non-existent in most developing countries. Palliative care is an emerging concept in Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan Kingdom. A small community palliative care service is available in the national referral hospital with three dedicated inpatient palliative care beds. This study explored the needs for palliative care among patients diagnosed with advanced illnesses and is a component of a larger project aimed to inform a suitable palliative care model for the country. Methods: This is a cross-sectional descriptive study. A survey, using a structured questionnaire including the EORTC QLQ-C30, was carried out among patients with advanced illness in hospitals, primary care units and communities across the country. Purposeful and snowball sampling strategies were used to recruit study participants. Results: Seventy (76%), out of 93 eligible patients, agreed to participate in the survey. Participants reported low to moderate scores on physical, role, emotional, cognitive and social functioning, a moderate score for the global health/ quality of life scale and moderately high (worse) scores in symptoms including fatigue, pain, insomnia, loss of appetite and the financial impact from the disease. Conclusions: The symptom burden experienced by patients affected by advanced illnesses demonstrates the need for palliative care in Bhutan. These findings will help inform the development of a public health-focused palliative care model, modified to the Bhutanese context, as recommended by the World Health Organization.

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