The World Health Organization (WHO) considers palliative care an essential component of cancer care. Despite this millions of patients with end stage cancer, HIV and other terminal conditions are unable to access palliative care or adequate pain medication in their final days.

Human Rights Watch has this month released a report detailing barriers in  accessing palliative care and pain relief.  The report ‘Global state of pain treatment‘ is the result of detailed survey of 192 countries carried out through 2009 and 2010. Their findings indicate that despite the adoption of the 1961 Single convention on narcotic drugs strict control of opiates in many developing countries combined with inadequate training of medical staff in pain management results in many terminal patients suffering unnecessarily. Less than 1% of patients reporting moderate to severe pain in the terminal phase of illness had access to sufficiently strong medication. The report also indicated that despite WHO recommendations, 30 of the surveyed countries did not have an official palliative care policy.

Some encouraging progress was noted with countries like Uganda, Colombia and Vietnam making significant forward strides in the integration of palliative care services and provision of opiates to terminal patients.

The full report can be downloaded HERE  and pages 56-57 illustrates data on the provision of opiates and percentage of terminal patients per European Country.

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