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Pain relief a human right, leading professor says

Agence France-Presse - October 11, 2004


GENEVA, Oct 11 (AFP) - Treatment to alleviate pain is a human right, whether people are suffering from cancer, AIDS or any other distressing condition, a leading medical authority said Monday, marking the first-ever Global Day Against Pain.

"Pain relief should be a human right, whether people are suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS or any other painful condition," said Professor Sir Michael Bond, President of the International Association on the Study of Pain (IASP)

"Today's Global Day Against Pain marks an immense growth in the interest in this area and today's World Health Organisation (WHO) co-sponsorship of our campaign shows that now is the time to take pain seriously," a WHO statement quoted him as saying.

Monday has been declared the first Global Day Against Pain. It was organised by IASP and the European Federation of the IASP Chapters (EFIC), with WHO co-sponsorship.

Dr Catherine Le Gales-Camus, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, said:

"The majority of those suffering unrelieved pain are in low and middle income countries where there is an increasing burden of chronic conditions such as cancer and AIDS.

"Limited health resources should not be allowed to deny sick people and their families the dignity of access to pain relief and palliative care, which are integral to the right to enjoy good health".

Professor Harald Breivik, President of EFIC, said chronic pain was one of the most underestimated health care problems in the world today, "causing major consequences for the quality of life of the sufferer and a major burden on the health care system in the Western world.

"We believe chronic pain is a disease in its own right."

The occasion was being marked here by a conference of WHO and pain treatment specialists. It coincides with new recommendations by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on pain relief.

IASP and EFIC say one person in five suffers from moderate to serious chronic pain, and one in three are unable or only with difficulty able to lead an independent life.

One in four say pain disrupts or destroys relations with family and friends.

Morphine taken orally has shown itself to be especially cost-efficient for treatment of moderate to severe pain for sufferers from cancer or HIV/AIDS, the WHO said in its statement.

However such painkillers are not available everywhere, especially in developing countries because of ignorance of their medical uses and because of costs and regulatory restrictions.

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