Published on: March 21, 2016

“Please finish him off,” said the thin elderly woman. “Please put something into him. Please…”

I was taken aback. Was she asking me to kill her husband? I stammered some response. Seeing that I was not going to oblige, she grabbed my hand and added, “I promise, I promise by everything solemn to me that I will not breathe a word of this to anyone. No one will know. Only you and I will. Just finish him off. I cannot bear to see this suffering anymore.”

She was so exhausted that she was barely able to get up. The desperation in her voice was compelling. “Please…”

Her husband, who was on the examination couch, had banged his head against the wall. Blood was oozing out of the ugly cancer on his cheek. He thrashed about and made weird noises, like an animal being tortured. My colleagues were already with him. I had been about to join them when I felt her tug in my arm and heard her strange request. I sat down beside her and laid my hand on hers.

“It’s all my fault,” she said. I was surprised. How can his cancer be her fault?

“He had tried to save himself by jumping out of the window,” she said. “It was a tall, tall hospital. He could have escaped from this life. But I screamed and yelled and dragged him back.

“People came and restrained him. I should have allowed him to go. Then he would not have had to bear this endless agony.”

She went on to describe the suffering: how for days and nights through months he continued to be in sleepless anguish, how he seemed to be losing his mind.

“He was a good man,” the lady told me. “He looked after the children and me well. He was a good man. He did not deserve this.”

In this article published in International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies (IDHDP) website, Dr M.R.Rajagopal, Chairman of Pallium India, recalls a heart-wrenching story of a family who suffered for months before eventually getting proper pain management.

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