A CBS News Video explores the limited access to pain medications of people in more than 80% of the world, who only have access to 5% of world morphine. For people in countries such as Uganda, this means that AIDS and cancer patients, who are suffering from terrible, long-term pain, will be unable to gain access to pain medication. Diederik Lohman, the senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, has drawn a parallel between torture and global pain, stating that it is no less a violation of human rights to deny (or to not supply) a suffering cancer patient or burn victim with pain medication, than it is to torture a person. Furthermore, he has gone on to say that while a torture victim has the opportunity to sign a confession and cease the torture, “the patient with pain does not have that option.”
While one may be quick to assume that the reason for a lack of access to pain medication comes from unavailability or lack of resources, this is not the case. Morphine is, in fact, very cheap and easy to acquire. The problem is more complicated, and has arisen as a side-effect of the war on drugs. As the market for drugs (such as heroin, a morphine derivative) has expanded tremendously, the war on drugs has led many countries to instill new and rigid regulations on controlled substances, thus leading to a reduction of the availability of the same controlled substances for medicinal purposes.
This is especially a problem in countries such as Uganda, where there are very few doctors who are trained in the dosing and administration of morphine. However, currently new protocols are in the works aiming to extend the laws to allow and train nurses to administer controlled pain medication.
Unfortunately, the inevitability of collateral damage will always render us as having to choose the lesser of the two evils. Especially when the topic revolves around allowing access to medication, the risk of a black market and drug abuse will continue to stifle availability.