So where are the advocates for pain relief and palliative care?
Perhaps we can learn from cancer advocacy. Pancreatic cancer accounts for 43000 new diagnoses and 38,000 deaths in the USA in 2010. It is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Yet a report from Pancan, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, highlighted the following:
Currently, research dedicated to pancreatic cancer receives a mere two percent of the federal dollars distributed by the NCI. By contrast, the other four of the top-five cancer killers in the US (lung, colon, breast, and prostate cancer) received 2.8- to 6.3-fold more NCI funding in 2009 than pancreatic cancer.
While Pancan is doing a great job to advocacy it is difficult to get those living with and dying from pancreatic cancer. The same has been true for lung cancer. Increasingly people are living longer in High Income countries with colon, breast and prostate cancer, and with that there are an increased number of patients (people living with a cancer diagnosis) advocating for their disease.
Who is doing this for palliative care? Who is holding the placard for morphine?
Yes, clinicians and administrators. Non governmental organizations like UICC and Human Rights Watch. But we need to embrace the families and friends of those who are dying and who have died without pain relief, and encourage them to shout for Just as Livestrong posted faces in Times Square Billboard last week as part of an advocacy effort before the UN Summit on Non Communicable Diseases, we need to make this personal.
I want pain relief, yes opioids, if I am living with advanced cancer as I do for my parents, my brothers and sister, my wife and children should they be facing the same situation.