Reflections of a Palliative Care Physician in the United Arab Emirates

Neil Nijhawan*

Reflections of a Palliative Care Physician in the United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates, along with the rest of the world, is facing a significant challenge in mitigating the spread
of coronavirus disease 2019 and the resulting pressure on frontline healthcare staff

At the time of writing, the worldwide total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has exceeded 5 million with thankfully only a fraction of these in the UAE. However, what is frightening many at this time is that so many of these patients did not survive.

With access to 24-hour news and daily reports of worldwide mortality figures, not since the Second World War we have been reminded of our own mortality and the fragility of life in such a sustained manner.

As a palliative care doctor, my response to the question – “So what kind of doctor are you?”
usually produces two responses. Half the time, the person I am speaking to will
tell me that they couldn’t possibly imagine doing my job and how am I not depressed dealing with all the death and dying.

The other 50% will respond with silence, raised eyebrows and
wide-open eyes before rapidly trying to change the conversation. Since I recently
moved to the UAE, the latter response rate is now probably up to 75%.

While I am not surprised by these frequent responses, it struck me that one of the best ways to make mortality less taboo and more accessible is to use my specialty, palliative medicine as a mean to promote more open and honest conversations.

Palliat Med Hosp Care Open J. 2020; 6(2): 19-21. doi: 10.17140/PMHCOJ-6-139