On 2nd June, 2014, newspapers across Kerala carried a report that a family of three was found dead in a hospital in Kanhangad. As per these reports, the parents first killed their nine-year-old son who had been admitted to the hospital, before taking their own lives. A suicide note found in the room said that they were driven to this extreme step because they were unable to tolerate their son’s unbearable, unrelieved pain.
The news points to a huge violation of human rights that exists in our healthcare system. Valuable lives were lost only because there was failure of medical aid in the form of palliative care. Palliative care involves, very often, prescription of morphine, an opioid medication. It is included in the National List of Essential Medicines. And yet, the sad truth is that majority of hospitals in Kerala do not have morphine, do not have doctors trained in palliative care and patients are denied pain relief.
Pallium India has filed a petition with the Kerala Human Rights Commission to bring attention to this issue. A copy of the petition can be seen here. We are hopeful that the Human Rights Commission will take action on this by giving instructions to all medical institutions in the state to provide palliative care with adequate stock of morphine and allied opioids.