“As members of society, it is important to strengthen society, it is our responsibility no matter what we do.”

Dr. Ranjan Mallawarachchi, a consultant surgeon, believes that a doctor’s responsibility goes beyond prescribing medicine and the operating table. Pursuing this ideology, he became instrumental in introducing palliative care as a medical practice to Sri Lanka, with the goal of helping patients who are suffering from long term, terminal illnesses such as cancer to live despite their plight.

Having watched helplessly, the agony of a loved one suffering from an incurable disease, a younger Dr. Ranjan was motivated to learn more about end of life care and take up the cause of helping patients’ whom the medical system could not continue to support. “When the patient is suffering from a long-term illness that is incurable, hospitals wash their hands off them. They become helpless when they are sent home because there is no one to take care of them. We don’t have end of life care in Sri Lanka; it is not integrated in our medical system.”

He presented his concept for palliative care in 2011 to the Vavuniya Base Hospital, which was subsequently introduced to other districts including Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. In 2015, he brought this concept to the Kuliyapitiya Teaching Hospital, initially treating 30 patients, which has now grown to support over 300 patients.

Realizing the growing need for palliative care Dr. Ranjan established an association, which is geared towards caring for more than the physical anguish the patient experiences.

“We don’t simply address physical pain through this program. We find solutions to the physical, psychological, social and spiritual problems that the patients undergo. These patients have a short time to live. We need to keep them happy. They need to be given a comfortable respectful death, without any pain or suffering.”

Dr. Ranjan’s team includes a multitude of professionals both medical and non-medical, who support him to continue the effort of providing palliative care. While assuring their support to these patients’ Dr. Ranjan and his team don’t shy away from dealing with the inevitable.

“We try our best, in our capacity, to help the patients embrace the reality and provide them the emotional support they need as well. We walk with the families until the end.”