Humanity until infinity: Will the world find its heart before it’s too late?

Over the last 11 days, our colleagues in Gaza have been reaching out to us intermittently via WhatsApp. Now, they’re silent.

Dr. Rachel Coghlan and Dr. Mhoira Leng

(Reposted from

As palliative care practitioners, our motivation is driven by healing, hope and common humanity. Broadly defined, palliative care is care — social, emotional, spiritual and physical — for a person and their family affected by serious illness and those at the end of their life, and bereavement care after somebody has died. It aims to improve dignity and quality of life in the face of health suffering.

Eight years ago, we were invited by healthcare colleagues in Gaza to collaborate to support plans towards improving palliative care. The former dean of the medical school at the Islamic University of Gaza, Dr Fadel Naim, told us, “I have the vision of training healers, not just doctors.”

The director of the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital — Gaza’s only hospital for cancer care — Dr Sobhi Skaik said, “Our people are in pain, we need to act.” During visits to Gaza, we have helped develop undergraduate palliative care training for medical students at the university, and later a postgraduate palliative care diploma at the hospital.

At the end of October this year, we were to celebrate our first diploma graduates — including doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists, a psychologist and a nutritionist. The party was planned with exquisite Palestinian food and joyous singing. We were to play the song “Insan (A human)” by Egyptian singer-songwriter Hamza Namira, with lyrics that symbolise to the students the essence of palliative care:

A human being inside you and me
A human being who has a dream and an aim
Inside his heart and in the depth of his eyes
He carries hope, sunrise and life
A human being who loves and never hates
A human being who has hope for a better tomorrow

How rapidly these dreams of healing and hope have evaporated. Last week, the Islamic University of Gaza, a place of learning, teaching and hopes for Gaza’s bright future doctors, was destroyed by Israeli strikes. Our palliative care students and their teachers have been scattered to the high winds, losing possessions, homes and lives.

The home of the first palliative care program for the poorest people of Gaza, Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, was this week destroyed in a horrific attack — Palestinian officials blame an Israeli airstrike; Israel says responsibility lies with a Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, which has denied blame — that killed 471 people, including children, healthcare staff, and displaced families seeking shelter.

The hospital, with its palliative care program, is no longer operational. The Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital which cares for 9,000 cancer and palliative care patients is on the verge of complete shutdown owing to the blockade of fuel and essential medical supplies …

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