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      Palliative care and the COVID-19 pandemic

      editorial

      Lancet (London, England)

      Elsevier Ltd.

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          Abstract

          Palliative care services are under-resourced at the best of times. The 2017 Lancet Commission on Palliative Care and Pain Relief described the widespread lack of access to inexpensive and effective interventions as a travesty of justice. And these are not the best of times. As health systems become strained under COVID-19, providing safe and effective palliative care, including end-of-life care, becomes especially vital and especially difficult. Some doctors, short of resources, might have to decide who can receive critical care and who cannot. For patients who won't survive, high-quality palliative care needs to be provided at least. But COVID-19 makes this more difficult. Time is short when patients deteriorate quickly, health professionals are overworked, isolation is mandated, and families are advised not to touch or even be in the same room as loved ones. This scenario will be compounded most in low-income and middle-income countries where shortages of both critical care and palliative care services are greatest. Continuing community-based palliative care is also harder to do safely. Many patients who need it are at heightened risk from COVID-19, protective equipment is running short, and surging deaths could overwhelm usual service provision. WHO has issued guidance on how to maintain essential health services during the pandemic, highlighting immunisation, maternal care, emergency care, and chronic diseases among others, but there was no mention of palliative care. This was an oversight. Indeed, palliative care ought to be an explicit part of national and international response plans for COVID-19. Practical steps can be taken: ensure access to drugs (such as opioids) and protective equipment, consider a greater use of telemedicine and video, discuss advance care plans, provide better training and preparation across the health workforce, and embrace the role of lay carers and the wider community. A pandemic is a cause and powerful amplifier of suffering, through physical illness and death, through stresses and anxieties, and through financial and social instability. Alleviation of that suffering, in all its forms, needs to be a key part of the response. © 2020 Fabrizio Villa/Getty Images 2020 Since January 2020 Elsevier has created a COVID-19 resource centre with free information in English and Mandarin on the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The COVID-19 resource centre is hosted on Elsevier Connect, the company's public news and information website. Elsevier hereby grants permission to make all its COVID-19-related research that is available on the COVID-19 resource centre - including this research content - immediately available in PubMed Central and other publicly funded repositories, such as the WHO COVID database with rights for unrestricted research re-use and analyses in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for free by Elsevier for as long as the COVID-19 resource centre remains active.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          Lancet
          Lancet
          Lancet (London, England)
          Elsevier Ltd.
          0140-6736
          1474-547X
          9 April 2020
          11-17 April 2020
          9 April 2020
          : 395
          : 10231
          : 1168
          Article
          S0140-6736(20)30822-9
          10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30822-9
          7146703
          ac4b9351-9a95-4e64-ae69-5df34ebca99c
          © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

          Since January 2020 Elsevier has created a COVID-19 resource centre with free information in English and Mandarin on the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The COVID-19 resource centre is hosted on Elsevier Connect, the company's public news and information website. Elsevier hereby grants permission to make all its COVID-19-related research that is available on the COVID-19 resource centre - including this research content - immediately available in PubMed Central and other publicly funded repositories, such as the WHO COVID database with rights for unrestricted research re-use and analyses in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for free by Elsevier for as long as the COVID-19 resource centre remains active.

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          Medicine

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