The World Health Organization estimates that 4.8 million people a year with moderate to severe cancer pain receive no appropriate treatment. Nor do another 1.4 million with late-stage AIDS. For other causes of lingering pain — burns, car accidents, gunshots, diabetic nerve damage, sickle-cell disease and so on — it issues no estimates but believes that millions go untreated.
Figures gathered by the International Narcotics Control Board, a United Nations agency, make it clear: citizens of rich nations suffer less. Six countries — the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Britain and Australia — consume 79 percent of the world’s morphine, according to a 2005 estimate. The poor and middle-income countries where 80 percent of the world’s people live consumed only about 6 percent.
Some countries imported virtually none. “Even if the president gets cancer pain, he will get no analgesia,” said Willem Scholten, a World Health Organization official who studies the issue.
As the story points out this isn’t simply a problem of poverty – though that certainly matters – but of local officials afraid of giving out morphine because it will lead to addiction and drug crimes.
I’m not sure that there are words for this kind of horror. It is just one of those things that really makes me want to scream. What on earth do you do about such things?