Palliative Care Neglected Worldwide: Tens of Millions Face Death in Agony

2011 June 10

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

2 Responses
  1. Santiago E. González permalink
    July 17, 2011

    Excelente reporte que nos da una vision de como esta distribuidos los Cuidaos Paliativos en el Mundo y la necesidad de seguir trabajando para servir a los que no tienen este acceso y evitar que nuestra poblacion siga falleciendo con dlor fisico y espiritual.

  2. July 19, 2011

    Dr Liliana De Lima, Executive Director of IAHPC, has kindly provided the following translation of Mr Santiago E. González’s comment from Panama:

    Excellent report which provides a vision of who palliative care are distributed in the world and the need to continue working in order to serve those who do not have access and prevent that our people continue dying with physical and emotional pain.

    Liliana adds:
    This means that your newsletter is being read across continents, on the other side of the globe from you!! Congratulations!

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