I came across this article in today’s New York Times (the link plays a very short advertisement first before connecting to the article). I really struggle with all of the injustices in the world, and would love to be able to put the world right. Why are people allowed to suffer the horrible pains of cancer and AIDS without adequate pain control? Why is it the wealthy in these countries have access to pain relief whilst the majority suffer. It’s just wrong, plain and simple.
Here are a few extracts from the article:
The World Health Organization estimates that 4.8 million people a year with moderate to severe cancer pain receive no appropriate treatment. Nor do another 1.4 million with late-stage AIDS. For other causes of lingering pain — burns, car accidents, gunshots, diabetic nerve damage, sickle-cell disease and so on — it issues no estimates but believes that millions go untreated.
Like millions of others in the world’s poorest countries, she is destined to die in pain. She cannot get the drug she needs — one that is cheap, effective, perfectly legal for medical uses under treaties signed by virtually every country, made in large quantities, and has been around since Hippocrates praised its source, the opium poppy. She cannot get morphine. That is not merely because of her poverty, or that of Sierra Leone. Narcotics incite fear: doctors fear addicting patients, and law enforcement officials fear drug crime. Often, the government elite who can afford medicine for themselves are indifferent to the sufferings of the poor.
About half the six million cancer deaths in the world last year were in poor countries, and most diagnoses were made late, when death was inevitable. But first, there was agony. About 80 percent of all cancer victims suffer severe pain, the W.H.O. estimates, as do half of those dying of AIDS. Morphine’s raw ingredient — opium — is not in short supply. Poppies are grown for heroin, of course, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. But vast fields for morphine and codeine are also grown in India, Turkey, France, Australia and other countries. Nor is it expensive, even by the standards of developing nations. One hospice in Uganda, for example, mixes its own liquid morphine so cheaply that a three-week supply costs less than a loaf of bread.