Pain Relief as a Human Right


For centuries, medical and surgical treatment has emphasized saving the life of the patient rather thanameliorating the patient’s pain, particularly when there were few options for the latter. Today at the dawn of the21st century, the best available evidence indicates a major gap between an increasingly understanding of thepathophysiology of pain and widespread inadequacy of its treatment. Epidemiologic evidence has proven thatchronic pain is a widespread public health issue. Studies of cancer patients’ pain control consistently reveal thatup to half of patients receive inadequate analgesia and 30% do not receive appropriate drugs for their pain.Equally, for patients suffering HIV/AIDS, 60%-100% will experience pain at some stage in their illness. In thedeveloped world, this gap has prompted a series of declarations and actions by national and international bodiesadvocating better pain control. One response to the worldwide undertreatment of pain has been to promote theconcept that pain relief is a public health issue of such critical importance as to constitute an internationalimperative and fundamental human right. The importance of pain relief as the core of the medical ethic is clear.Pain clinicians promote the status of pain management beyond that of appropriate clinical practice or even anethic of good medicine. They advocate a paradigm shift in the medical professions’ perspective on painmanagement, from simply good practice to an imperative founded on patient rights. There is a need to promotepolicies which create conditions where human beings can bear even incurable illnesses and death in a dignifiedmanner. This must help health professionals or lay groups to initiate a powerful agenda to reform local statutes.The essential components of such legislation are: 1. Reasonable pain management is a right. 2. Doctors have aduty to listen to and reasonably respond to a patient’s report of pain. 3. Provision of necessary pain relief isimmune from potential legal liability. 4. Doctors who are notable or willing to ensure adequate analgesia mustrefer to a colleague who has this expertise. 5. Pain management must be a compulsory component of continuingmedical education. For too long, pain and its management have been prisoners of myth, irrationality, ignorance,and cultural bias. We are confident that the Pain Relief and Palliative Care Working Group under the auspicesof the Lebanese Cancer Society is the main promoter of Palliative Care in Lebanon whose main goal is to relievesuffering and improve quality of life of the cancer patients, and advocate pain relief as a human right.