A call to prevent needless suffering: feedback from recent palliative care event
Claire Maskell of Palliative Care Australia recently wrote for Croakey about inequities in global access to palliative care and pain management.
The article was a preview to the recent screening in Canberra of the award-winning documentary LIFE before Death. It drew an audience of 200 people including parliamentarians, health professionals, members of the public and also the filmmakers, Mike Hill and Sue Collins, and some stars of the documentary.
Thanks to Claire and her colleagues for providing this wrap of the film, including some responses from audience members.
“Everyone should see this film”
Claire Maskell writes:
LIFE before Death takes us to 11 different countries to investigate what Professor David Hill, former President of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and a subject in the documentary, describes as a ‘medical emergency on a huge global scale,’ the fact that 80% of people who died last year around the world died in needless pain.
The film follows health professionals working in palliative care and their patients to illustrate the profound effect untreated pain has on quality of life and how, with access to palliative care services and medicinal opioids, this quality of life can be immensely improved.
We learn quickly that the burden of untreated pain is not shared equally across the world and lies with low to middle income countries.
Gordon Gregory, Executive Director of the National Rural Health Alliance says, “I guess the most striking thing for me is the distribution. 15% of the world uses 94% of the medicinal opioids. I didn’t know that – that’s really striking – but it’s yet another tragedy on an international scale about distribution of resources, wealth and life options which has stunned me.”
Perhaps the most difficult thing for the audience to comprehend was that the solution to ending this suffering is in essence quite simple.
We don’t need to spend money on investing in new drugs or technologies because we already have the solution – morphine. It is cheap to produce, easy to administer and highly effective in relieving pain.
Most of the audience simply weren’t aware that it wasn’t available, including Labor Senator Claire Moore, Chair of the Parliamentary Friends End of Life Care Group:
“We’ve been talking as a group of people who thought they knew about the issue, but the lack of available morphine was something we hadn’t looked at before. We were thinking it was more to do with the skilled management for pain and education. The fact that in all of those countries there was just not available morphine is criminal.”
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