End of life care is being actively discussed in Britain today, especially what is known as “assisted dying.” The word euthanasia comes from two Greek words meaning “good death.” Every day doctors must make difficult decisions about whether to continue treatment or to withdraw artificial life-support measures knowing this will mean the patient dying. “Assisted dying” involves prescribing medication which will cause a person’s death. The key issue is intention. In most countries today “assisted dying” is a crime, although such actions are usually considered with sympathy and understanding. Death is a reality for us all. We all need help in facing our own mortality. We know that death is inescapable, and we want a good death.
Kimbilio Hospice is a Christian hospice in Eldoret in Kenya. It describes itself as a “community of compassion that honours life and offers hope”. It provides treatment of pain and other symptoms; psychological, social, and spiritual support; physical therapy and counselling services for patients and family members. Its main goal is to achieve the best quality of life for individuals and families facing advanced disease including cancer, HIV and Aids and stroke. It has 52 beds and offers out-patient care to people living in the community. Since it opened in 2011 Kimbilio Hospice has served about 1,400 patients.
An article entitled “Inside a Kenyan hospice” gives an insight into the care provided at Kimbilio: “It is 10am at Kimbilio Hospice and a chaplain makes his way to a patient lying in bed. He leans towards him and whispers a word of encouragement. The patient’s face lights up and they engage in candid conversation. They close their eyes and pray. A sigh of relief can be heard from the corner of the room. A counsellor holds a patient’s hand, and they sit in silence for a while before they start talking. On the other end, a child’s gleeful laughter fills the room. Every minute is defined by a different emotion. There are many unspoken things among them. They are all sick, but doctors have stopped giving curative care because their bodies are no longer responding to medication.”
Many patients at Kimbilio have been discharged from various health facilities for palliative care. Mr Daniel Morogo, the patients’ care moderator, says, “At Kimbilio, we do not offer treatment to patients but hope and comfort through managing pain, dressing wounds, counselling as well as giving spiritual nourishment.” At Kimbilio Hospice patients hear about God’s Son, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and find comfort in the words of Psalm 23 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”