Access to palliative care as part of healthcare is a human right. On Patient Solidarity Day, Lyudmila, a retired kindergarten teacher in Armenia, described to Human Rights Watch the pain from her inoperable breast cancer.

16 Dec 2015

“Two years ago my left hand got paralyzed from the tumour and I started to develop severe pain. It felt as though it was burning, as if my arm was on fire. It was hellish pain..

“Now I have pain 24 hours a day, but at night it becomes unbearable, when pain gets even worse, and I just start screaming. Two months ago I was prescribed one ampoule of injectable omnopon [opioid pain medication].

“It was then enough to sooth my pain for four hours, but now it helps only for maximum of two. I keep it for nights, so that I can sleep for those two hours. The pain attacks start unexpectedly and I start screaming and become a different person…

“When it starts I [can’t speak], I have pain attacks every night... It’s inhumane pain, unbearable pain for a human being...”

Lyudmila’s words were deeply personal.  But her experience is not an exception. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 80 percent of people with advanced cancer worldwide develop moderate to severe pain at the end of life.

Cancer is on the rise in Armenia. Some 8,000 people die from it annually, and many of them do so in excruciating pain. But it does not have to be this way. Most of the pain endured by Lyudmila and others like her can be easily alleviated.

Morphine, the mainstay medication for treating severe pain, is inexpensive and easy to administer, but widely inaccessible to people who need it in Armenia. Other palliative care services that help people ease pain and end-of-life suffering are also largely unavailable in Armenia.

Thousands of patients with advanced cancer in Armenia suffer from avoidable, severe pain every year because they cannot get adequate pain medications. The lack of palliative care in Armenia condemns thousands of patients with life-limiting illnesses to chronic pain and great suffering.

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