After my long years of practice in the field of critical care medicine (since 1993) and disturbed at the state of lonely, painful and undignified deaths that patients face, I embraced palliative medicine in 2006.....working closely with the dying and their families made me reflect upon the unknown facet of spirituality and its close associate, religion. I practice mostly in situations that people frown upon....marginalized population in rural and tribal settings in some of the most backward regions of India.....though I did have my share of working with all luxuries, including ready access to morphine.....Let me make one thing very clear....morphine alone cannot cure pain....so even if morphine is available, the scenario in which I am working will not change much! I had recently volunteered to work in a hospice in Rishikesh where morphine was freely available and I did not feel that it made much of a difference. The question to those of you (privileged ones) who work with morphine is “Can you work without morphine”.....and THAT is the challenge.
Addressing SPIRITUAL and RELIGIOUS issues is the key! That is what I have learnt from ground zero...repeatedly...without fail....medications do have a role no doubt, but small in comparison.
This tempted a strong atheist like me to take a peek into religion and I completed a course on Vedanta, which is the backbone of Hinduism.....and then into Buddhism....compassion....and I am still on the path....its bliss for sure....and there has been no looking back....
I even brought out a small handbook on 'Spiritual issues in the last days of life....a perspective of Sanatan Dharma' , which I have incorporated here.
Tat tvam asi.