Palliative Care in Humanitarian Crises

Innovation or Radical Reclaiming of Roots?


  • Rachel Coghlan Deakin University, Australia



Palliative care, humanitarian action, compassionate care


Palliative care and humanitarian action share fundamental goals to relieve suffering and uphold dignity; and both hold an ethical root in the recognition of our common suffering in illness and dying, our compassionate action in response to suffering, and our common humanity. The parallels in goals and ethos should make universal application of palliative care in humanitarian crises a norm, but in humanitarian practice today this is not the case.

There is growing consciousness of the imperative to integrate palliative care into humanitarian response. Compassionate palliative care is steeped in humanitarian history, norms and ethics. ‘Small but potent’ acts of compassion are a profound and far-reaching element of palliative care response that can be delivered no matter how scarce the resources. In addition to meeting a neglected need, the broader practice of ‘small but potent’ acts of compassionate palliative care may serve to remind humanitarian actors of the very essence of a humane response and offer a radical reclaiming of the roots of humanitarianism.


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Author Biography

  • Rachel Coghlan, Deakin University, Australia

    PhD Candidate
    Centre for Humanitarian Leadership


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A nurse in a gown and cap looks towards a man lying on a gurney







How to Cite

“Palliative Care in Humanitarian Crises: Innovation or Radical Reclaiming of Roots? ” (2019) The Humanitarian Leader, p. Working Paper 002, Sept 2019. doi:10.21153/thl2019volno0art1033.