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Care for dying needs improvement

Switzerland's health care system is not properly prepared to ease the suffering of those with terminal illnesses, the country's health minister said.

Pascal Couchepin, who steps down at the end of October, joined Pierre-Yves Maillard, president of the Swiss Conference of the Cantonal Ministers of Public Health, to present a concept on palliative care in Bern on Friday.

Switzerland is grappling with a shortage of nurses while modern medicine has helped prolong the lives of those of all ages entering the last phase of life.

Couchepin and Maillard, speaking before the media, said people entering their final days should suffer less and be well cared for at the institution of their choice.

The present health system currently lacks comprehensive coverage for medicines that soothe symptoms and complement other treatments. Couchepin and Maillard said a national research programme should look more closely into the needs of dying people. and agencies