Dr Rajagopal, Chairman of 'Pallium India', Honoured with the 'Alison Des Forges Award'
by Elizabeth Menon

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Dr Rajagopal, Chairman of 'Pallium India', Honoured with the 'Alison Des Forges Award'

'Human Rights Watch' honours courageous people who dedicate their lives for the welfare of the world's most vulnerable people. Four advocates for Human Rights, Dr. M. R. Rajagopal from India, the Founder Chairman of 'Pallium India', Shin Dong-Hyuk from North Korea, Father Bernard Kinvi from the Central African Republic, Arwa Othman from Yemen have been chosen as the worthy recipients of the most prestigious 'Dr Alison Des Forges Award' in 2014. The award is named after Dr. Alison Des Forges, senior adviser at Human Rights Watch for almost two decades, who died in a plane crash in New York State on February 12, 2009. Dr Alison was the world’s leading expert on Rwanda, the 1994 genocide and its aftermath.

'Dr. Alison Des Forges Award' will be presented at the 'Voices for Justice Annual Dinners' in 20 cities worldwide, and the first dinner will be held in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara in November, where Dr Rajagopal will be honoured! The others will be presented at various venues around the world: “Shin Dong-Hyuk, who experienced brutality and starvation growing up in one of North Korea’s forced labor camps and has worked tirelessly to alert the world to these horrors since his escape in 2005; Father Bernard Kinvi, a Catholic priest who saved the lives of hundreds of Muslim civilians targeted during sectarian violence in the Central African Republic; Arwa Othman, a leading advocate working to end child marriage and promote equality for women in Yemen”. These dinner evenings celebrate the courage of people who faced adversities to create a world free from abuse, discrimination, and oppression. It will also give an opportunity for the recipients of the award to inform supporters of the 'Human Rights Watch' and others of their struggle against opposition to better the lives of those suffering in the society.

Dr M R Rajagopal from Kerala, a clinician(Anaesthetist), academic and an activist for human rights is the 'Face of Palliative Care' in India, and is considered 'Father of Palliative Care in India'! He has been working to promote Palliative care in India as a 'Human Right' and to protect patient's right to have pain relief and die with dignity, He developed the world's most successful Community-based Palliative Care Programme, 'Pallium India' and he is solely responsible in convincing the Indian Government to make morphine more available for patients. His main contributions over the past 20 years have been the formation of the 'National Programme in Palliative Care in India (NPPPC) in 2012 and in bringing the Parliament of India to amend the harsh 'Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 (NDPS), and the amendment was passed in 2014. 'Pallium India' aims to stop the suffering of millions in India who are denied of Pain relief and medical care. They encourage volunteers and the well-wishers to help them in their endeavour to achieve this goal!

It is the enthusiastic dedication of Dr Rajagopal that there is an increased awareness among the professionals and the public about Palliative care in India and to fight against the inhuman act of allowing patients to die in pain, which is against human rights. He believes that patients should not suffer from treatable pain, which is violation of human rights, and allowing them to be free of that pain and to die with dignity is kindness! We offer our gratitude to Dr Rajagopal and his team for allowing the terminally ill patients to be relieved of their pain and die with dignity! At this juncture, I wish to mention a book written by Nazeem Beegum, 'My Mother Did Not Go Bald', dealing with the trauma of cancer and the detached behaviour that patients and their carers have to endure, which was released on 2 September 2014. I think it was quite fitting that Dr Daniel Babu Paul IAS, whose name is synonym to IAS, a great Orator, Author of many books, including the 'Bible Dictionary,'Veda Shabda Ratnakaram, and a man of great wisdom, handed over the first copy to Dr M.R.Rajagopal!

'Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences' (TIPS) is a 'World Health Organization Collaborating Centre' (WHOCC) for 'Training and Policy on Access to Pain Relief', based in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala that gives high quality palliative care, a clinical service based on community oriented palliative care, local health workers, home visits and free treatment that includes free drugs for poor patients. 'Pallium India' has training programmes all over India and in South East Asia for professionals, adult and paediatric palliative care. It also arranges Educational Programmes for doctors, nurses, volunteers and medical students and they have clinics and link centres that provide home care services.

('Pallium India's' new 'Palliative Care Information Centre' based in Trivandrum started on 1 August 2014 and has a manned information desk on all days except Sundays and National holidays, from 9:00AM to 12:00 Noon and can be accessed over phone: 0091 9746745497. An experienced person with medical background, trained in palliative care will be available during this time to provide the information related to palliative care for patients, families, medical professionals and volunteers wishing to help! Further information on 'Pallium India' and its activities are available on their website: www.palliumindia.org)

© E Menon



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