The EIU 2015 Quality of Death Index, published on Tuesday, October 6, evaluates the quality of palliative care offered in 80 different countries around the world. Researchers considered factors such as quality and affordability of care, palliative environment, human resources, and community engagement.
Further, the EIU ranks nations according to their provision of palliative care, access to treatment with analgesics, and policies and public funding intended for the care of terminally ill patients.
Coming in near the bottom of the list, the report ranks Guatemala and the Dominican Republic at 74 and 75, respectively. Both countries are in the worst category in terms of “palliative environment,” alongside nations like Iraq, Egypt, the Philippines, and Romania. According to the report, the governments of these countries have not implemented strategies for the development and promotion of palliative care.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines palliative care as “the active total care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment. Control of pain, of other symptoms, and of psychological, social, and spiritual problems is paramount.”
Palliative care is offered to patients who suffer from conditions such as cancer, heart and pulmonary disease, kidney failure, dementia, HIV, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Puerto Rico, Peru, and Colombia also received low scores. According to the report, local governments in these countries have introduced strategies for the development of palliative care, but there are no clear mechanisms for its implementation.
At the top of the list of regional countries, Chile is followed by Costa Rica and Panama as the best places to die in Latin America.
The EIU highlights the Chilean government’s efforts to “incorporate palliative care into health-care services and to develop policies for that purpose.” The report also notes that there are sufficient specialized palliative-care professionals in Chile, as well as access to medication, yet the latter is “restricted by bureaucratic red tape.”
The United Kingdom, on the other hand, topped all scores worldwide in the Quality of Death Index. The EIU notes the existence of a network for hospice care in the country, as well as several laws and policies which regulate health care in the final stage of life.
The Right to Die
On Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill which legalizes assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, making California the fifth US state to allow this kind of practice.
Meanwhile, in Latin America, only Colombia has legalized euthanasia. In July, Colombia allowed the first assisted suicide in the region for a 79-year-old patient who suffered from end-stage cancer.
Euthanasia is defined as the act of intentionally provoking the death of a terminally ill patient to end his or her suffering. No other Latin American country legally recognizes this practice as a personal choice.