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When Relieving Suffering Means Removing Legal Burdens

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Patients with with life-limiting illnesses experience emotional distress not just from physical pain. Pressing concerns can include the future of their property, access to health services and social benefits, care of their children, patient confidentiality, and how much freedom they will have to choose their treatment.

Addressing these legal concerns is part of palliative care’s holistic approach. Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life for these patients and families by relieving suffering through physical, spiritual, and psychosocial support.

That’s why the Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) began training health care providers to become paralegals. It empowers them to identify legal issues, give basic legal advice—like how to draft a will or establish power of attorney—and refer more complicated cases to pro-bono lawyers.

KEHPCA has now trained over 300 paralegals and established a pro-bono network of attorneys with relevant expertise. The organization also developed a series of informational pamphlets that cover how to draft a will, patients’ rights, and power of attorney.

In the video above, Nyeri Hospice shows how legal services can be integrated into care for patients and their families, both at the hospice and at home. Pro-bono attorneys run legal aid clinics at the hospice and follow up with patients on a personal basis as needed. And Nyeri’s health care providers include legal assessment as a component of care when visiting a patient at home.

Addressing the legal needs of patients and families offers peace of mind. This in turn improves health and well-being. Human dignity, in illness and at the end of life, must remain at the center. 

The Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association is supported by the Open Society Foundations.

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