Hospice and palliative care development in India: a multimethod review of services and experiences

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2008 Jun;35(6):583-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2007.07.012. Epub 2008 Apr 18.


Palliative care has been developing in India since the mid-1980s, but there is a dearth of evidence about service provision on which to base national policy and practice. The aim of this study was to assess the current state of palliative care in India, mapping the existence of services state by state, and documenting the perspectives and experiences of those involved. A multimethod review was used, which included synthesis of evidence from published and grey literature, ethnographic field visits, qualitative interviews with 87 individuals from 12 states, and collation of existing public health data. The review identified 138 hospice and palliative care services in 16 states and union territories. These are mostly concentrated in large cities, with the exception of Kerala, where they are much more widespread. Nongovernmental organizations, public and private hospitals, and hospices are the predominant sources of provision. We were unable to identify palliative care services in 19 states/union territories. Development of services is uneven, with greater provision evident in the south than the north, but for the majority of states, coverage is poor. Barriers to the development of palliative care include: poverty, population density, geography, opioid availability, workforce development, and limited national palliative care policy. Successful models exist for the development of affordable, sustainable community-based palliative care services. These have arisen from adapting Western models of hospice and palliative care for implementation in the Indian cultural context. Further work is required to ensure that the growing interest in hospice and palliative care in India is used to increase the momentum of progress.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Drug Utilization
  • Health Care Surveys
  • History, 20th Century
  • Hospice Care / history
  • Hospice Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospice Care / trends*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Palliative Care / history
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Palliative Care / trends*


  • Analgesics, Opioid