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Integrating legal aspects into palliative care in Kenya

Author: Hannah Njoroge, KEHPCA
05 July 2017
  • Image: Sven Torfinn/Panos for the Open Society Foundations

“Sharing is good and with the digital technology, sharing is easy,” stated software freedom activist and programmer, Richard Stallman. Technology is powerful and has made it possible for people from different parts of the world to share information in a more efficient and effective manner. With that in mind; Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) in partnership with Open Society Institute East Africa have subscribed into an online platform that enables users to share data, process and analyse it. The platform is well known as Salesforce.

At the Nyeri Hospice, staff use Salesforce to store and organise legal data. The data is uploaded in real time and those participating are able to refer to it when needed. The information has gone a long way in contributing towards decision making and program implementation at the hospice.

The Nyeri team stated that they are well informed about the site and noted that other hospitals in the country should learn from them. However, they highlighted that poor internet access has been a shortcoming since one cannot login to the site without it.

One might be wondering why Nyeri Hospice uses the platform to distribute information that focuses on legal aspects of palliative care. This is because integration of legal aspects into the care improves the life of the patients since it addresses issues such as land and property inheritance, power of attorney and decision making, especially towards end of life. These are critical issues, yet most health workers and care-givers do not discuss them with their patients.

Most palliative care patients at the hospice have benefited from legal information that is discussed with them. KEHPCA’s Advocacy Officer and Director of Programs Mr David Musyoki and Dr Asaph Kinyanjui respectively, had the privilege of visiting one of the legal support beneficiaries at his home, in Nairutia village. 

The patient had worked very hard throughout his life to acquire properties, land and livestock. These have been very dear to him. He does not have dependants other than his nieces and nephews who take care of him. 

Unfortunately, when he got sick, he kept wondering what will become of his possessions, in the event he died. He discussed his fears once with Mercy Owiti (Paralegal Nurse from Nyeri hospice). 

Mercy and her team took up the matter and were able to provide the patient with legal guidance on how he can will out his properties and give power of attorney to the person of his choice.  

He expressed his gratitude for services he has been receiving. He says he is now empowered and has been able to will out his property to his nieces and nephews. 

It is also important to note that legal support does not only benefit the patient but also the family. In regards to this, he says his family now understands his diagnosis better and most importantly respects all his wishes.

“I am delighted that the patient is well empowered to be able to make decisions regarding his property and future treatment intervention,” said Dr Asaph Kinyanjui.

The hospice is really committed to matters associated with legal issues. They run a legal clinic every 3rd Thursday of the month with a pro-bono lawyer facilitating the sessions. The aim of the sessions is to ensure that at the end of the day, every patient in need of palliative care will be able to make well- informed legal decisions.

“I wish all hospices and palliative care units could integrate legal aspects as part of their comprehensive care,” noted Johnson Ritho Paralegal Officer.

The Acting Chief Executive Officer at the hospice, Mrs Eunice Ndiritu was grateful for the support KEHPCA has given to the Nyeri hospice. “Thank you KEHPCA for the kind donation, the laptop will ease the process of data collection and reporting,” she said.

KEHPCA will continue to work with palliative care providers to support them in integrating legal aspects in palliative care.

This article was originally published on the Kenya edition of ehospice

Read more about legal aspects of palliative care in the International edition of ehospice

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