Can care that eases pain heal violent politics?

Bandaged red heart

I was born in Kerala, a state that is full of inconsistencies and contradictions.

Mention palliative care anywhere in the world and Kerala is sure to figure in the conversation. And also, unfortunately, in any conversation about gruesome political violence. Yet another Kerala contradiction?

That’s what I asked one of the senior doctors I met at a recent international palliative care conference. He told me something that surprised me.

Political parties are taking to palliative care. Leaders are encouraging party cadre to undergo training in palliative care. They allow and ask workers to go into the community and help relieve pain through palliative care.

Whenever I visit Kerala, I find it difficult to sustain an everyday chat over chaya (tea in Malayalam) because I simply cannot keep up with the rate at which political parties take birth, splinter and switch loyalties.  Every street corner, every wall and every cause is “owned” by one party or the other.  Where people are known to follow party directives faithfully, I thought it was wonderful to have politics endorse palliative care.

“Well, they approached us,” the doctor explained. “We made it very clear that we have no political affiliations. We practice and teach others to practice palliative care. We do not ask about the political leanings of our team members, students or volunteers.”

Sure enough, another political party has now approached them. They are training more and more volunteers, politics be damned.

Probably, political parties see it as another way to reach out to people and “influence” them.  But, why look for ulterior motives?

For me, the motive does not matter. As long as it helps even one poor patient live a life free from pain and distress.

And as long as they don’t shed blood to show who cares more.

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