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Only the poor die screaming

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If you had a million dollars to spend (but not on yourself), where would it do the most good?

Well, the cost to cover morphine or a morphine-equivalent pain relief treatment for all the sick children younger than 15 years who are in really serious pain in low-income countries would be just $1 million per year. About half of those children are going to die, but with morphine at least they wouldn’t die screaming.

That’s how a great many people died in the past: no pain relief, or aspirin at best, and so cancer victims, gravely injured people and many others spent their last days, weeks or months in agony. Everybody still dies in the end, but now they die with far less pain — in the richer parts of the world. Elsewhere, however, it’s still the Bad Old Days.

This is not because the pain-relief drugs are expensive: they are all off-patent and quite cheap. Yet, according to a study published in October by The Lancet, one of Britain’s two leading medical journals, almost half the people who die each year are still dying in “serious health-related suffering” (SHS), as the experts call it. Or agony, as the rest of us call it.

The Lancet went to the trouble of setting up a commission to look into this phenomenon because it just doesn’t make sense. Of the 56 million people who died........

© The Telegram