HomeResearch and policyPublicationsPalliative care in humanitarian crises: innovation or radical reclaiming of roots?

Palliative care and humanitarian action share fundamental goals to relieve suffering and uphold dignity; and both hold an ethical root in the recognition of our common suffering in illness and dying, our compassionate action in response to suffering, and our common humanity.

This conceptual paper considers the current state of palliative care in humanitarian response. It explores what compassionate responses to seriously ill and dying people look like in the context of humanitarian action.

The parallels in goals and ethos should make universal application of palliative care in humanitarian crises a norm, but in humanitarian practice today this is not the case.

Rachel Coghlan

There is growing consciousness of the imperative to integrate palliative care into humanitarian response. Compassionate palliative care is steeped in humanitarian history, norms and ethics. ‘Small but potent’ acts of compassion are a profound and far-reaching element of palliative care response that can be delivered no matter how scarce the resources.

In addition to meeting a neglected need, the broader practice of ‘small but potent’ acts of compassionate palliative care may serve to remind humanitarian actors of the very essence of a humane response and offer a radical reclaiming of the roots of humanitarianism.

Download Palliative care in humanitarian crises (Open Journal PDF)

Academic contributors

Latest updates

  • Suffering, scared, alone and dying. Why the COVID-19 humanitarian response must include leadership in palliative care.

    Suffering, scared, alone and dying. Why the COVID-19 humanitarian response must include leadership in palliative care.

    Read more