Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lack of Palliative Care in India.

A new Human Rights Watch report titled, "Unbearable Pain: India's Obligation to Ensure Palliative Care," found that many cancer, TB and HIV patients were untreated for pain during their illness. From the site:

Severe pain is a common symptom among cancer patients, particularly during the last stages of the disease. It is estimated that more than 1 million advanced cancer patients in India experience severe pain in any given year. In addition, many other patients, including those with HIV, TB, or other infections or illness, may face acute or chronic severe pain.

The report identified three key obstacles to improving the availability of pain treatment and palliative care:

  • Restrictive drug regulations. Many Indian states have excessively strict narcotics regulations that make it very difficult for hospitals and pharmacies to get morphine. In 1998, the central government recommended that states adopt modified regulations, but more than half of India's states have not done so.
  • The failure to train doctors. Most medical students and young doctors receive no training on pain treatment and palliative care because the government does not include such instruction in relevant curricula. As a result, most doctors in India simply do not know how to assess or treat severe pain.
  • Poor integration of palliative care into health services. National cancer and AIDS control programs do not contain meaningful palliative care components, thus depriving such care of public funds and relegating it to second-tier status.

"India is one of the world's largest legal producers of opium, the raw material for morphine," Lohman said. "But almost all of it is exported while hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of Indians suffer needlessly."

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