Ukraine Cancer Patients Deprived of Painkillers

WHO calls for end to country's strict limits
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted May 12, 2011 3:36 PM CDT
In Cherkasy, Ukraine, Nadezhda Zhukovsky, 50, kisses her sleeping son Vlad, who died of brain cancer last year at age 27, before going to the local pharmacy for medical supplies.   (AP Photo/Scott Anger & Bob Sacha for the Open Society Foundations)
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(Newser) – Rules tied to the Soviet era have left Ukraine with some of the world’s toughest painkiller laws—restrictions so broad that some cancer patients have attempted suicide to escape the pain, the AP reports. Morphine, for example, isn’t available in tablet form, and patients are limited to 50 milligrams a day, when doctors say they may need 4,000. The pain means “these people are crossed out from life even before death,” says one doctor in the country. Human Rights Watch charged today that hundreds of thousands of people are denied pain relief in the country.

The rules violate World Health Organization guidelines, which say patients should receive as much pain medication as they need. The Ukrainian rules stem from concern over illegal drug use and addiction. But in reality, the limitations have little influence on the illegal market, experts say, and addiction shouldn’t be a factor for terminally ill patients. “There is no maximum dosage,” says a WHO rep. “You always should try to take care of people in pain. It is a moral obligation that is on all of us."

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