Published on: June 10, 2011

In their 128-page report, “Global State of Pain Treatment: Access to Palliative Care as a Human Right“, Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlights the fact that tens of millions of people worldwide are denied access to inexpensive medications for severe pain.

HRW comprehensively detail the failure of many governments to take even basic steps to ensure that people with severe pain due to cancer, HIV, and other serious illnesses have access to palliative care, as a result, millions of patients live and die in great agony that could easily be prevented.

Some quotes From Patients and Healthcare Workers Interviewed by Human Rights Watch:

“Before I came [to Kenyatta National Hospital], I couldn’t eat or breathe well [because of the pain]. Now that I have been given medicine [morphine], I can eat and breathe. I couldn’t sit down, but now I can. I had pain for more than a month. I told the doctor and nurses [at another hospital] that I had pain. It took too long to get pain treatment… Here I got it immediately and started feeling well again.”
– Christine L., an 18 year-old woman with Breast Cancer, Nairobi, Kenya.

“I would sleep maybe an hour and a half per night. I could take any number of sleeping pills [without effect]. With morphine, I can relax. This place [the palliative care unit] is heaven-sent…”
– Shruti Sharma, Hyderabad, a breast cancer patient, India

“Cancer is killing us. Pain is killing me because for several days I have been unable to find injectable morphine in any place. Please, Mr. Secretary of Health, do not make us suffer any more.”
– A classified ad placed in El País newspaper in Cali, Colombia, on September 12, 2008, by the mother of a woman with cervical cancer

“I wanted to fall head down and be dead right away so it wouldn’t hurt anymore.”
– Vlad Zhukovsky, a cancer patient from Ukraine, describing a failed suicide attempt

“We have no pethidine, no DF-118 (dihydrocodeine) and no morphine…. We have children here with advanced HIV; some are in severe pain. The pain management for children with advanced HIV is not enough.”
– Nurse, Bondo District Hospital, Kenya

“Doctors are fearful of everything to do with opioids.”
– Oncologist, Jordan