Asia’s pioneering palliative care centre marks 10 years of spearheading premier research and education in the field of end-of-life care.
In a country largely influenced by Asian culture, death has always been a taboo subject. Research efforts in palliative care have remained relatively undeveloped and our lack of expertise in this area was reflected in policies and allocation of research funds, which stunted development in the field of palliative care amid competing priorities.
“Yet, [death] cannot be ignored given the ageing population, high costs dedicated to patients at the end of life, and the fact that many patients die in pain and not at their place of choice, among other shortcomings,” Said Professor Eric Finkelstein, Executive Director of the Lien Centre for Palliative Care (LCPC), and a professor at Duke-NUS’ Health Services and Systems Research Programme. Presented with these hallmark characteristics of Singapore, the need for quality palliative care rises in urgency.
Ten years ago, Singapore lacked a national palliative care strategy and was ranked 18th in the Quality of Death study, which surveyed and ranked 80 countries based on the quality and affordability of end-of-life healthcare. Following a series of policy debates over the provision of palliative care around the world, the Ministry of Health (MOH) commissioned LCPC to produce Singapore’s first National Strategy for Palliative Care (NSPC), which comprised of recommendations in the areas of service development, training and research, and public education and awareness.
The first of its kind in Asia, LCPC serves as a research and training centre, filling in the vacuum of end-of-life knowledge and training that Singapore was facing back in 2008. Established through a partnership between the Lien Foundation, the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), Singapore Health Services (SingHealth), and Duke-NUS Medical School, LCPC has been producing and delivering high quality research and education to improve the end-of-life experience for patients with life-limiting illnesses for the past decade.
“LCPC conducts research aimed at improving the end-of-life experience for patients and families, and trains healthcare professionals on how best to deliver palliative care to those with life limiting illnesses.” Professor Eric Finkelstein remarked. Over the last decade, LCPC has been the trailblazer for premier research and education in the field of palliative care. Supported by a well-rounded team consisting of members from over 40 faculties and having undertaken various projects that effectively addressed the needs of the most vulnerable in the community, LCPC boasts of being a world-renowned centre of palliative care research and education.
To commemorate its 10th year of providing quality palliative care services for the community, LCPC held a conference on the theme ‘Delivering Value at End-of-Life’. Gathered at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront, Singapore, palliative care experts from all around the world chipped in their insights, best practices and latest research discoveries in efforts to collectively improve the global palliative care industry. Discussions revolved around various topics, namely the effect of hope on advanced cancer patients’ survival expectations, the role of health communication in improving treatment decision making among elderly end-stage kidney disease patients, advance care planning and models of palliative care, and an overview of The Lancet Commission on the ‘Value of Death’.
Prof Patrick Casey, Senior Vice Dean for Research at Duke-NUS, remarked, “LCPC is extremely fortunate to have the support of the Lien Foundation, NCCS, SingHealth and countless palliative care and other health professionals within and beyond Singapore. We at Duke-NUS have been privileged to play a role in its establishment and continued operation, and be part of its enduring legacy as governments, health systems and the wider public place greater value on end-of-life care in their communities.”
To fulfil its mission to be the premier palliative care centre in Asia, the LCPC is in the process of restructuring to increase its collaborations with the Ministry of Health, other government agencies and key international stakeholders. It will do this through promoting high-quality palliative care research, delivering high-quality educational contents through blended learning (face-to-face and online medium), and disseminating knowledge through strategic partnerships. Going forward, the centre will emphasize initiating interventions and new models of care that can directly benefit patients, be it through integrated palliative care financing and delivery models or through patient decision aids to optimise treatment discussions. [APBN]