At this moment, over a million people in India are in unimaginable pain. We refuse to look the other way. We choose to hear the cry, and to do what we can.
Please join us. Your help is needed.

“Growing up as the child of a palliative-care physician, I learned about sacrifice”

2015 March 26

This article by Cait O’Donnell is really not only about what a palliative care doctor’s child gains; it explains what makes life worth living for any palliative care worker. Why is it that though we deal with suffering and death every day, we are not depressed and frustratied? May be experiences like this make life worthwhile for us.

Access to pain relief is India’s ethical obligation: Indian journal of medical ethics

2015 March 24

“India has yet to enhance its large population’s chances of a pain-free or pain-controlled life when they have a severe, pain-inflicting illness, and enable those with terminal illnessesto pass away in a pain-controlled, dignified manner”, so says Sunita Bandewar, an independent researcher in global health, bioethics and programme evaluation. You can read her review on the pain problem in India, the palliative care movement of Kerala and the NDPS Act amendment of 2014 in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics Online.

Thank you Dr Bandewar, for being a voice for the voiceless.

Dr Michael Minton reports on IAPCON 2015, Hyderabad

2015 March 20

Michael MintonMost of the palliative care pioneers of the 1990s in India have been fortunate to be taught by Dr Michael Minton, when he was a member of the faculty of WHO Collaborating Centre for Palliative Care at Sir Michael Sobell House, Oxford.

He continues to visit India and mentor us. Please see his brief report on the recent annual conference of IAPC at Hyderabad. Thank you Michael, for this report and for all that you have done for our people. We look forward to your continued support and to your blessings.

The success of the 22nd IAPCON Hyderabad was highlighted in the March newsletter. I would like to add a few personal observations which reflect the increasing development and sophistication of Indian palliative care.

The growth of community projects beyond Kerala was illustrated by Dr S Bora (Kolkata) reporting on the recent West Bengal community programme, where they have trained a 1000 volunteers in 10 Panchayats and had seen 169 patients by September 2014. Other community projects reported the value of electronic equipment. One is using tablets for keeping and sharing patients records, and another using skype and email to obtain expert advice for their patients.

IAPCON HydThe 1st prize in the oral presentations was awarded to Dr P Seshachar (Bangalore) who reported her experiences with an innovative shaped feeding spoon for patients with swallowing difficulties.

The winning poster by Dr C Singh (Kochi) reported the successful outcomes of an integrated working relationship between the palliative care and the intensive care teams who regularly met to discuss patients and family issues. This critical topic of needing to recognise when a person is dying and the futility of pursuing further treatment has led to the writing of valuable guidelines, a collaboration between the Indian Society of Critical Care medicine and the IAPC ( ref:Myatra SN IJCCM 2014;18:615-35). The guidelines need to be widely circulated and also could be a model for other countries.

The conference had international delegates and speakers who gave progress reports from neighbouring countries Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, all of which had had influence from India.

There was also recognition of the achievements in 2014 . The amendment of the Indian Narcotics law to allow the medical prescribing of opioids and the World Health Assembly statement on the need to integrate Palliative Care (PC )into health care systems. These achievements have involved Indian PC workers who continue to advise the Indian government and the WHO on PC policy. It is an exciting and expanding time for PC and the conference fully achieved its aims.

75% of the world’s population lack access to essential pain relief

2015 March 20

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has launched its Annual Report for 2014, which reveals that around 5.5 billion people – or 75% of the world’s population – have limited or no access proper pain relief treatment.

Diederik Lohman, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, says: “In the past five years, recognition is dawning that the war on drugs has turned millions of cancer patients into collateral damage: Nobody intended to deprive access to pain medicines, but that’s what happened.”

In the report, INCB notes that drug control measures do not exist in a vacuum and that, in their implementation of the drug control conventions, States must also comply with their obligations under other treaties, including international human rights obligations.

Katherine Pettus, IAHPC and Palliative Care Advocacy.

2015 March 14

Dr Katherine PettusDr Katherine Pettus came to palliative care after training as a hospice volunteer and attending a conference on international hospice and palliative care featuring Dr. Rajagopal and Dr. Anne Merriman, from Hospice Africa Uganda. After learning about the lack of access to opioid medicines in developing countries, and training with the Leadership Development Initiative at San Diego Hospice and Institute for Palliative Medicine, she went back to school to study international law and health policy. Since earning a Masters in Health Law and Policy she has been working tirelessly for palliative care advocacy, analyzing the international legal situation that creates access barriers to essential opioids for pain relief, and working with country partners on the ground.

Katherine and other civil society colleagues engage at the Commission on Narcotics Drugs, the Human Rights Council, and UN Agencies to educate countries about their human rights obligations to provide pain relief and palliative care to their citizens.

Read this article in the IAHPC newsletter, where she writes about the various activities that she and IAHPC are involved in.