M. R. Rajagopal, MD – Board Member


Dr. M.R. Rajagopal is an anaesthesiologist-turned-palliative care physician from Kerala, India. He is currently chairman of Pallium India and director of Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences (TIPS) which is a WHO Collaborating Centre for Training and Policy on Access to Pain Relief. The organization works at the national level in India and has its headquarters in Trivandrum in the state of Kerala in South India.

While working as Professor and Head of Anaesthesiology at Calicut Medical College, he with his colleagues founded the Pain and Palliative Care Society in 1993 offering free pain management and palliative care to poor patients. In 1995, this was declared a WHO demonstration project and grew to the present Institute of Palliative Medicine and a network of over 300 palliative care centers in the state of Kerala. This initiative resulted in palliative care reaching about 50% of the needy in Kerala compared to the national average of less than 4%.

Seeing that in the next ten years, the development of palliative care was poor in the rest of the country, he founded Pallium India, a non-governmental organization that “envisions an India in which palliative care is integrated into all health care, so that every person has access to effective pain relief and quality palliative care, along with disease-specific treatment across the continuum of care”. The organization has a strategy of ‘Demonstrate, Educate and Facilitate’ demonstrating delivery of quality palliative care to the needy ‘where they are’ with community participation, providing educational programs, and facilitating the development of policies and programs across the country.

His initiative also led to the development of a Government policy on Palliative Care in the state of Kerala in 2008 and to its revision in 2019, and to the National Program for Palliative Care of the Government of India in 2012. His work with the WHO Collaborating Centre at Pain and Policy Studies Group (PPSG) in Madison-Wisconsin and with the Access to Essential Medicines program of WHO contributed significantly to the amendment of India’s draconian Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) act by the Parliament of India in 2014. The organization works with the Government of India for the integration of palliative care and implementation of the National Health Policy of 2017. The organization also takes the lead in operationalizing the inclusion of palliative care in undergraduate medical and nursing curricula.

Dr. Rajagopal is a lifetime advisor to the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC). He is on the editorial board of several international journals and has authored/edited two textbooks, several book chapters (including the Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine), and more than 30 publications in scientific journals. He is an adjunct professor of global oncology at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada.

The New York Times wrote an article that described his work in 2007. In 2008, the International Association for Pain and Chemical Dependency honored him in Philadelphia with the Marie Nyswander Award for his contributions to the field of pain management. In 2010, the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) honored him with its award for excellence in pain management in developing countries, at the World Pain Congress in Montreal. The international organization “Human Rights Watch” honored him with the Alison Des Forges award. In 2017, a documentary film titled “Hippocratic: 18 Experiments in Gently Shaking the World” was based on his contributions to palliative care. In 2018, he was honored with Padma Shri, the third-highest civilian award given annually by the Republic of India.

He recently published his memoir, ‘Walk with the Weary’.

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