Published on: June 2, 2011

Dr Jo Dunn and Francis with new supply of morphine

The English Language needs a new phrase.

Or at least, when the International Association for Study of Pain ever appoints another taxonomy committee, it should consider adopting “stock-out pain” as a real (and disgraceful) entity – a sort of pain that describes the callousness of our society.

People like Dr Anne Merriman and colleagues have worked for decades to improve opioid availability in Uganda and yet, for trivial reasons, there is no morphine for those in pain.

In the May 2011 Cairdeas newsletter, Dr Mhoira Leng describes how they had to scrounge for money to buy morphine at Mulago Hospital in Kampala because the Ugandan Government was ‘reorganizing’ its supply system.

Despite all the millions that go into Africa for health-related aid, there is no money for morphine?

Can you imagine the agony of someone whose excruciating pain has been relieved so easily by morphine and then is told one morning without any warning:

Sorry, we have run out of the medicine. Sorry, we do not know when we will get some more. And, no, we have no substitute for it.

As a palliative care worker, I feel so very privileged to have the opportunity to relieve someone’s pain and suffering so easily. Then we run out of morphine.

I can tell you as one who knows, that it is certainly not a pleasant experience, having to explain it to person after person.

And it is not easy to forgive the insensitivity of human beings that causes that stock-out to happen!

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