Indians deserve access to pain treatment, says rights body

February 12th, 2010 - 4:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Tiruchirapalli, Feb 12 (IANS) The central government should act urgently to ensure access to pain medications, Human Rights Watch said ahead of a national conference on palliative care here in Tamil Nadu.
Hundreds of thousands of Indian patients with cancer and other conditions experience agonizing pain every year because they do not have access to morphine - an inexpensive, safe, and highly effective pain medication.

Government drug regulations, lack of training for health care workers, and poor integration of care are the core reasons for the lack of access, Human Rights Watch said.

“Each day the government fails to act, more than 2,000 cancer patients in India die in excruciating pain,” said Diederik Lohman, senior health and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government should take decisive action to end the unnecessary suffering.”

In an October 2009 report, “Unbearable Pain: India’s Obligation to Ensure Palliative Care,” Human Rights Watch found that many major cancer hospitals in India do not provide patients with morphine though more than 70 percent of their patients are incurable and therefore more likely to require pain treatment and palliative care.

Health centers offering services to people living with HIV similarly do not have morphine or doctors trained to prescribe it.

Severe pain is a common symptom among cancer patients, particularly during the last stages of the disease. More than one million advanced cancer patients in India experience severe pain every year.

In addition, many other patients, including those with HIV, TB or other infections or illness, may face acute or chronic severe pain.

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