Expanding Palliative Care Services During Infectious Disease Outbreaks in Iran

Authors: Mrs. Asal Niaraees (Health Economic PhD Candidate, Iran University of Medical Sciences); Dr. Fatemeh Rezaei (Assistant Professor, Department of health in Emergencies and Disasters, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences)

24 February 2024

Palliative care is a critical aspect of health care that provides holistic care to individuals who are experiencing severe suffering due to debilitating illness, often in the final stages of life. A key aspect of palliative care is its ability to improve the quality of life while reducing healthcare costs. Considered a fundamental human right, palliative care effectively relieves the pain and suffering associated with life-threatening illnesses. Unfortunately, millions of people around the world lack access to palliative care, resulting in increased suffering. Prioritizing the development of palliative care is therefore essential for health systems for many reasons.


When considering target groups for palliative care, various factors come into play, including advanced chronic conditions, limited life prognosis, multidimensional needs, and the requirement for thorough and coordinated care. Importantly, palliative care should be integrated into healthcare and humanitarian services, especially during infectious disease outbreaks, emphasizing its crucial role in addressing grave health concerns and ensuring equitable access as a fundamental human right.


Despite these imperatives, many regions, including Iran, continue to face challenges in fully integrating palliative care into their healthcare systems. The prevalence of COVID-19 has further underscored the critical necessity of palliative care. Patients, families, and healthcare providers wrestling with the ramifications of the pandemic confront a myriad of challenges, both physical and psychological. The pandemic inflicts distress, fear, and uncertainty not only on the patients but also on their attending families and healthcare providers. Addressing these multifaceted challenges necessitates an expanded provision of palliative care services, offering a pathway to alleviate substantial distress and concerns faced by all these groups.


Unfortunately, the existing capacity for palliative care services in Iran is inadequate, with many care providers lacking familiarity with such services. This inadequacy underscores the urgent need for an expanded infrastructure to provide comprehensive palliative care services, especially during times of great distress and uncertainty. As the world navigates through unprecedented crises, the urgency to expand palliative care services globally, including in Iran, cannot be overstated. Strengthening this essential component of healthcare not only addresses the immediate distress but also upholds the dignity and comfort of individuals confronting life’s most challenging moments. This is a crucial step in ensuring that all members of society, irrespective of their circumstances, receive the care and compassion they rightly deserve.


In my exploration, I discussed several critical points about the significance of palliative care services amidst infectious disease outbreaks, specifically within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran. Let me share some key insights I uncovered:


Relevance of Palliative Care during Infectious Pandemics: I found that it’s crucial to emphasize the applicability and necessity of various aspects of palliative care services during infectious disease outbreaks. This includes highlighting the importance of pain and symptom management, psychological and spiritual consultations, advanced care planning, and supportive services for both patients and their families.


  1. Resource Management and Avoidance of Unnecessary Services: I emphasize the importance of integrating the palliative care approach into the health system and disaster management structure to avoid unnecessary procedures and services, especially in critical situations due to resource constraints. This integration can play a key role in preventing excess mortality and conserving limited resources.
  2. Challenges and Response to COVID-19 in Iran: My analysis focused on examining the response of the Iranian health system to the COVID-19 pandemic, categorizing it into areas such as hygiene, treatment, education, logistics, crisis management, research management, and communication management. It was also important to highlight areas of neglect, such as deficiencies in contact tracing and social distancing measures.
  3. Psychosocial issues and resource constraints: My study highlighted the existence of psychosocial issues among health care providers, patients, their families, and the general population, in addition to the challenges faced by developing countries, particularly in terms of resource and equipment shortages.
  4.  Importance of palliative care in all situations: It was important for me to emphasize that palliative care is invaluable not only in critical situations but in all circumstances within the health care system. I emphasized the need for increased awareness and rapid implementation of palliative care protocols.
  5. Lessons for future planning and policy-making: I argued for lessons learned from the pandemic and highlighted the importance of palliative care for future planning and policy-making. Despite the current low capacity in Iran, I noted the potential of international resources in palliative care during crises and emphasized the critical importance of broader awareness and implementation of palliative care protocols.

In conclusion, my research presented an insightful exploration of the relevance and challenges of palliative care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran. I emphasized the importance of palliative care services, highlighted areas for improvement in the response to the pandemic, and underscored the need for increased awareness and implementation of palliative care protocols in Iran and beyond, particularly in the context of future crises and policymaking.


Add a Listing

Fill in the form below and we'll verify the posting and add to the Map.