Talking about Death

Anjum JoadDr Anjum Khan Joad is an anaesthetist and palliative care consultant. She is one of the leaders in pain and palliative care management in Rajasthan. Currently, she holds the position of coordinator at the Department of Palliative Care Medicine within the Bhagwan Mahaveer Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.

She established a Comprehensive Palliative Care Centre in Bhagwan Mahaveer Cancer Hospital and Research Centre and founded the Jaipur Course in Palliative Medicine and Nursing. This is the only such course in North India. Over the years, she has also trained many doctors and nurses in palliative care. She is also part of the teaching faculty of the Lien Collaborative for Palliative Care in Bangladesh. She has made significant contributions in the field of palliative care, but being an anesthetist, how did she get into palliative care in the first place?

Here’s her reply: “No exciting story I am afraid! I was employed at this new charitable cancer hospital eager to anaesthetise patients and treat pain Ours is a centre run by a Religious trust. In the initial four-to-five months, the patients gradually trickled in. Almost all of them were incurable, with a recurrence, or not responding to therapy. My oncology colleagues had no treatment to offer and referred these patients to me because they knew that I wanted to establish a “Pain Clinic”. What was also worrying was that many had major symptoms without any pain. I did not know what to do with these patients! A colleague gave me a photocopied version of one of Dr. Twycross’ early books on how to treat pain. Using this and other resources I learnt on the job while running the operating theatres. On April 24, 1998, I formally notified all the trustees and all five colleagues that we had started Pain Relief and Palliative Care Services in the hospital. My colleagues were most supportive as were the trustees, making it possible for this service to continue operations.”

Recently, she was interviewed for a BBC program called the WHY Factor on the topic of “Talking about Death”. In the interview Dr Anjum shares her experience of telling patients the bad news.

Click here to listen to the podcast!