Freedom from Pain

Have you ever wondered whether simple pain treatment is readily available around the world? Shockingly, in most countries it isn't. Indeed, more than half the countries in the world have little to no access to morphine, the gold standard for treating medical pain - amounting to a hidden human rights crisis.

Richard Lee's picture

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Strategic communications for WWF

July 20th, 2011

Have you ever wondered whether simple pain treatment is readily available around the world? Shockingly, in most countries it isn't. Indeed, more than half the countries in the world have little to no access to morphine, the gold standard for treating medical pain - amounting to a hidden human rights crisis.

The University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism’s International Reporting Program (IRP) partnered with Al Jazeera English to investigate the issue and produced Freedom From Pain, a half hour documentary that will air on the program People & Power on Wednesday, July 20.

The documentary will also stream on . Unlike so many global health problems, pain treatment is not about money or a lack of drugs, since morphine costs pennies per dose and is readily available. The IRP found that bureaucratic hurdles, and the chilling effect of the global war on drugs, are the main impediments to access to morphine. “For a victim of police torture, they will usually sign a confession and the torture stops,” Diederik Lohman of Human Rights Watch, says in the film. “For someone who has cancer pain, that torturous experience continues for weeks and sometimes months on end.” “This story about global morphine shortages is one of those stories that both the media and the medical community have overlooked,” says Prof. Peter W. Klein, a former CBS 60 Minutes producer, who led the project and is director of School of Journalism. “I’m proud we’ve been able to shed light on this hidden human rights crisis.”

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