M.R. Rajagopal, MD
Director, Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Science and Founder and Chairman, Pallium India, India
Who has most influenced your work and what impact has he or she had?
The one person who influenced me and my work most is Mahatma Gandhi. I came across his autobiography, “My experiments with truth” as a school boy. He taught me integrity and courage; he taught me that it is important to do the right thing even when that course of action is not the most expedient. He taught me not to turn away from suffering and to do what I can. I have tried to follow his advice “Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her].”
What does it mean to you to be named a Visionary in Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
The honor that AAHPM has bestowed on me, I believe, opens up a world of opportunity for my colleagues and I to give badly-needed visibility to the serious health-related suffering in 80% of the global population – the low-income and low-middle-income world. The magnitude of that suffering, especially in the context of largely out-of-pocket health care expenditure and often non-existent access to essential medicines, cannot be easily appreciated by people who have not seen it at close quarters. Though their problems are frequently talked about, global health action aimed at them has been grossly inadequate. Their suffering is really low-hanging fruit, as low-cost solutions are available. I picture to myself a global workforce catalyzed by AAHPM, determined to strategize and act to scoop away that needless suffering patiently and systematically.
What is your vision for the future of Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
The future of Hospice and Palliative Medicine lies, I think, in its integration with health care. In Utopia, there need be no discipline called Hospice and Palliative Medicine; there the health system would be perfect, with an ideal level of integration of the principles of Hospice and Palliative Medicine with it. That ideal may not be achievable; but that should give us a focus, to shift part of the attention from disease and cure to health and well-being. In that ideal world, I expect that death will be accepted as the inevitable consequence of life and quality of life will be aimed at whether the life expectancy is seriously limited or not. And they will recognize that the social capital should be an essential component of the healthcare system and will learn to embrace willing members of the community as part of the care team. There, health scientists will not be afraid of using words like love and happiness in connection with health care, even though they are not easily measurable and hence inconvenient to recognize.
M.R. Rajagopal is one of 30 individuals who have been named a Visionary in Hospice and Palliative Medicine by AAHPM for their 30th Anniversary in 2018. Learn more about the Visionary recognition and view a list of all current and past Visionaries.