Irish Hospice Foundation honours Nobel Peace Prize 2014 nominee Dr. Anne Merriman

THE Irish Hospice Foundation, (IHF),  honoured internationally recognised pioneer of the hospice movement in Africa and Nobel Peace Prize 2014 nominee, Dr Anne Merriman, at an event in Dublin on Saturday, (October 11th).

In recognition of her work the IHF announced the establishment of a €10,000 scholarship in Dr Merriman’s name which will allow a student to undergo medical education in Uganda.

Dr Merriman, (79), who was born in Liverpool to Irish parents and did her medical training in UCD in the 1960’s –  is credited with developing hospice and end of life care across Africa, introducing affordable oral morphine utterly transforming end of life care for cancer patients. She says it is a human right to die free of pain and at peace.

A nominee for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize she founded the Palliative Care Association of Uganda and is a founder member of the African Palliative Care Association.

Dr. Merriman – a former Medical Missionaries of Mary nun who entered the order in Drogheda, Co. Louth – has dedicated 33 years of her career to working in Africa, including 10 years in Nigeria as a missionary doctor and 20 in Uganda. 

Her interest in palliative care started when she worked as a doctor in St Luke’s Hospital in Anua, south-eastern Nigeria, after she witnessed terminally ill patients being sent home to fend for themselves. Ten years later Ann came face to face with palliative care again when she returned to Liverpool to care for her dying mother and became the head of the department of Geriatric Medicine at Whiston Hospital.

In 1985 Dr Merriman introduced palliative care into Singapore. In 1990, she was invited to be the first Medical Director of the Nairobi Hospice in Kenya and went on to found Hospice Africa Uganda in 1993 and introduce affordable oral morphine for cancer patients.

Hospice Africa Ireland (HAI) is a support organisation for Hospice Africa and Hospice Africa Uganda.

Irish Hospice Foundation CEO Sharon Foley said Dr. Merriman has ceaselessly fought at the side of the African people, and in particular those in pain needing palliative care for the last three decades.

“She has brought peace to the dying through Hospice Africa Uganda. But she is also leaving a lasting legacy by encouraging and promoting education and inspiring those coming after her to continue this work.”

Ms Foley said the Anne Merriman Scholarship in Palliative Care Education will help this quest. A scholarship will be awarded every two years to a student nominated by Hospice Africa Uganda. The scholar will be entitled to complete a BSc in Palliative Care at an African University. 

Dr Merriman said she was honoured to have been selected by the IHF for the tribute. The scholarship will make an invaluable contribution to educating people in Uganda and ensuring work in palliative care develops and continues, she said.

“The resource restricted countries of this world have the majority of cancer cases and the least resources for treatment. Thus suffering of patients and families are unimaginable. Cancer diagnosis is not only a death sentence but a death of torture and suffering.”

“Education in palliative care is the key to bringing relief and peace to the millions who are suffering. Treatment for cancer and other diseases will not be available for most, in these countries, for generations, (WHO 1986).  Education, based on a compassionate and expert clinical service from basic training to degree level is now available in Africa but nearly all accepted student applicants cannot afford fees and so are turned away.”

“Thus this initiative from Irish Hospice Foundation will allow leaders, educators, advocates and carers in palliative care to set up services, bringing holistic care and peace to the suffering in many countries.”

“We who have witnessed the huge need are so grateful to the caring people of Ireland.”

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