#Laugh­AtDeath to start the con­ver­sa­tion on end-of-life care

The Hindu Business Line - - PULSE - PT JYOTHI DATTA IS­TOCK

“Hello, I am a Sikh. So Sikh (sick) that I was ad­mit­ted to Guru Nanak Hos­pi­tal,” says Pooran Is­sars­ingh, tak­ing a shot at standup com­edy in front of a laugh­ing au­di­ence of fam­ily and doc­tors.

Con­tin­u­ing in a sim­i­lar vein, Jan­ice Pow­ell says, “Life is like the tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ist Arnab Goswami. We should never take it se­ri­ously!”

Both ladies are no more. Jan­ice died last year within months of this ac­tiv­ity. And “Pooran didi” passed away last month, says Praful Akali, Founder of Medulla Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a spe­cial­ist health­care agency that cre­ated this “Last Laugh” cam­paign for the In­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Pal­lia­tive Care (IAPC) to raise aware­ness on end-of-life or pal­lia­tive care (see box).

“In a so­ci­ety like ours, where talk­ing about death is a taboo, some peo­ple who are ter­mi­nally ill not only ac­cept death but also come to terms with it in the most fas­ci­nat­ing man­ner… by jok­ing about it,” says IAPC, in­tro­duc­ing the #Laugh­AtDeath cam­paign on its home­page.

‘Last words’ cam­paign

Fea­tur­ing Naren­dra Mahtre and Manudevi Singh, be­sides Jan­ice and Pooran, the cam­paign had won ac­co­lades at the Cannes Li­ons Health fes­ti­val. In fact, the pre­vi­ous year saw Medulla win sim­i­lar recog­ni­tion on its “Last words” cam­paign, also for IAPC, where it poignantly cap­tured the last words of peo­ple who passed away, prob­a­bly in a hos­pi­tal, sur­rounded by med­i­cal staff.

“Over 200 nurses were in­ter­viewed” for the “Last Words” cam­paign. Each of them broke down nar­rat­ing the last words of some of their pa­tients,” says Praful, on the vul­ner­a­bil­ity shown by the nurses, a com­mu­nity It is all about com­ing to terms with death

hugely “un­der­val­ued”.

Praful, who cred­its his team at Medulla for the sen­si­tive cam­paigns, says his own jour­ney on pal­lia­tive care started with the loss of his mother to cancer in 2004. Af­ter a point, her pain was man­aged, but she did not get the gamut of ser­vices that comes un­der pal­lia­tive care, re­calls Praful.

While States like Ker­ala are

ahead on pal­lia­tive care, the wheel is turn­ing, but slowly. More doc­tors are now be­gin­ning to speak of pal­lia­tive care and some hos­pi­tals have started to of­fer this sup­port.

Praful ex­plains the prob­lem echoed of­ten by doc­tors in­volved with pal­lia­tive care. Doc­tors are wired dif­fer­ently. “They are fo­cussed on sav­ing (even pro­long­ing) lives and not on mak­ing the end more com­fort­able.” Be­sides, many peo­ple di­ag­nosed with cancer in the coun­try are not told that they have it, says Praful. So how do you start a con­ver­sa­tion on pal­lia­tive care and the even­tu­al­ity of death in such a sit­u­a­tion, he asks.

By get­ting ter­mi­nally ill pa­tients to laugh at death, IAPC hopes to start this con­ver­sa­tion and make it less taboo.

Pop­u­lar stand-up co­me­di­ans Ku­nal Kamra, Kashyap Swa­roop, Pu­nit Pa­nia and Vi­nay Sharma worked with peo­ple who were ter­mi­nally ill to cre­ate the cam­paign. Some of those cho­sen for the cam­paign passed away dur­ing the process and this was “tough” on the team that worked with them, says Praful, ex­plain­ing the fragility of the sit­u­a­tion.

On a per­sonal note, Praful says, “Pooran didi”, who is his aunt, passed away on Oc­to­ber 10, which, co­in­ci­den­tally, hap­pens to be his mother’s birth­day and also the found­ing day of the agency.

As a mes­sen­ger on pal­lia­tive care, Pooran didi found her au­di­ence and re­ceived an ova­tion from them, be it at the visa of­fice or Cannes, where she was pos­si­bly the old­est speaker, ever, says Praful.

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