The Fight against drug abuse hits cancer patients
Human rights workers and doctors believe that attempts to control the illicit drug trade are hitting the wrong people, namely people suffering from terminal illnesses who are deprived of urgently needed painkillers.
The whole situation in Ukraine is bad with patients and their families left to fend for themselves. Gennady tells how his wife who is dying of cancer was desperate. The hospice available was worse than being at home. He says that his wife was ready to kill herself before they came upon the programme “Hand of Assistance” in which volunteers provide palliative care at patients’ homes.
Specialists say that a major problem in Ukraine is the lack of a volunteer movement, with only isolated individuals prepared to even occasionally come to help out at a hospice, not to mention at people’s homes.
There are two institutions offering palliative medicine in Kharkiv, but researchers have found that a very large number of people have a prejudice against hospitals. At home patients cannot simply receive morphine in tablet form, but need to totally depend on visits from a doctor. Andriy Rokhansky from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group explains that there is an ampule form of morphine which must be administered by a medical worker from the clinic. He says that this is a major problem since WHO requirements stipulate that painkillers may only be administered for a four hour period, whereas getting a doctor to come more than twice is impossible. The problem is especially acute for people not living in a city. Yes, there are some committed doctors who will travel over bad roads to terminally ill paitents even several times a day, however they are the minority. Many patients die in terrible pain surrounded only by members of their family.
Specialists insist that it is the police who need to take proper measures to fight drug addiction and illicit circulation of narcotics. This struggle must not be at the expense of people with grave illnesses.