Volunteers like Upasarna are the linchpin in Kerala’s palliative care system — one that was singled out as “a beacon of hope” in The Economist’s “Quality of Death” study in 2010. Kerala’s achievement is especially significant at a time when richer Indian states and wealthy countries like the United States are struggling with the same challenge: How can health systems offer the possibility of a dignified death to everyone? Most people want to die the same way — pain-free and at home, surrounded by family. But in reality, most people in high-income countries die in a hospital, while in many lower-income countries they suffer in pain without medicine or facilities....In “Being Mortal,” a manifesto on how to take care of patients at the end of life, Dr. Atul Gawande, a physician and journalist, writes:
“The only way death is not meaningless is to see yourself as part of something greater: a family, a community, a society. If you don’t, mortality is only a horror.”
For families like the Karathattyas, it is the ability to live together, sharing occasions like the Muslim festivals of Eid with their friends and serving snacks to their neighbors, that make the heavy shadow of illness and death more bearable. Rather than being a moving hospital, the little van that comes to their house every month is a reminder that they’re not suffering alone.
“There’s always pain,” Karathattya said, leaning back on his bed. “But there’s always happiness.”
In India, Dispensers of Balm Travel to Death's Door - The New York Times