A UGANET Lawyer 2nd left, a client Jamilah Asaba in the middle, and a paralegal sharing their experiences while implementing the model at the conference
For a long time, patients in Uganda faced with the problem associated with life- threatening illness, were receiving relief from pain and suffering as a form of palliative care.
Over the years, it has been observed that there are unique issues, needs and social burdens beyond relief of pain and suffering.
UGANET together with Palliative care Association of Uganda (PCAU) supported by African Palliative Care association (APCA) have joined hands to facilitate provisions of holistic care for the patients. From the physical aspects of pain management to addressing other legal and human rights needs and social burdens of patients so as to protect the patients’ dignity.
UGANET shared their experience during the international Palliative care conference 2017, on how they have adopted a 4-point –service model to address legal and human rights needs in Palliative care. The model highlights that after the patient receives appropriate treatment and care for pain management. The health worker then links up with a social worker for non-medical care and support.
The social worker make sure there is treatment adherence and support in the community, He/ She then links the patients to a paralegal for legal diagnosis. The paralegal counsels the patient and assess the levels of non –medical challenges to inform actions or referral to the lawyer who offers detailed legal remedies including counselling and other legal responses.
The proven model
Cathy Nanyanzi a UGANET lawyer while addressing participants in the conference mentioned that, the roles of each actor have strong linkages across different points on the assessed needs of the patient. Referrals in a few cases don’t follow the above steps and may go in reverse or skip steps. For example, from a doctor directly to a lawyer depending on the urgency or clearly assessed needs of the patient.
Among the roles of the lawyer may include mediations, legal advice, court representations, drafting legal documents, succession planning support among others.
During the conference, Jamila Asaba who is battling with breast cancer shares her experience of how she was referred by a health worker to a Lawyer. Her husband had abandoned her and the children. The psychosocial pain had worsened the physical pain because she could not support her children with the husband help. But with the intervention of a lawyer who mediated between Jamila and the husband, the husband committed to paying his children fees and has since been fulfilling his commitment.
This legal and human rights integration in palliative care has so far succeeded with 15 hospices and health facilities and plans are underway to mobilize resources and partners to replicate it elsewhere.