Ensuring Access to Pain Treatment in Guatemala

This report documents how Guatemala’s drug control regulations – meant to prevent drug abuse – make it almost impossible for many patients with cancer and other advanced illnesses to get strong pain medicines like morphine. Patients described their extreme pain and other symptoms and how they struggled to cope with a dim prognosis. They said they had to make visits to multiple doctors because many were unable to adequately treat pain, and many said they faced lengthy travel on crowded buses to reach hospitals that offer pain treatment.

The palliative care services at the National Cancer Institute of Guatemala. Guatemala City, August 2015. © 2015 Human Rights Watch


  • February 4, 2016

    Challenges and Progress in Ensuring the Right to Palliative Care in Morocco

    This report estimates that each year, more than 62,000 Moroccans need palliative care, which focuses on improving the quality of life of people with life-limiting illnesses by treating pain and other symptoms. While the Moroccan government has taken a number of important steps to improve end-of-life care, Human Rights Watch found only two public hospitals, in Casablanca and Rabat, have specific units that offer this essential health service, and only to cancer patients. Patients suffering severe pain outside of these cities must either undergo difficult travel to these centers or do without effective pain medicine.

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  • July 14, 2015

    Cancer and the Struggle for Palliative Care in Armenia

    This 86-page report describes the devastating impact of the lack of palliative care on people with advanced cancer and their families. It documents the overall lack of palliative care services in Armenia and the government’s overly restrictive regulations for getting strong pain medication. It also describes ingrained practices among healthcare professionals that impede adequate pain relief, and the lack of training and education of healthcare professionals in palliative care.

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  • October 24, 2013

    Cancer and the Struggle for Pain Treatment in Senegal

    The 85-page report found that 70,000 Senegalese each year need what is known as palliative care to control symptoms related to chronic, life-threatening diseases. Morphine is an essential and inexpensive medication for treatment of severe pain, but Senegal only imports about one kilogram of morphine each year – enough to treat about 200 cancer patients.

  • June 2, 2011

    Access to Medicines and Palliative Care

    This 128-page report details the failure of many governments to take even basic steps to ensure that people with severe pain due to cancer, HIV, and other serious illnesses have access to palliative care, a health service that seeks to improve quality of life. As a result, millions of patients live and die in great agony that could easily be prevented, Human Rights Watch said.

  • May 12, 2011

    Ukraine’s Obligation to Ensure Evidence-Based Palliative Care

    This 93-page report describes Ukrainian government policies that make it impossible for cancer patients living in rural areas to get essential pain medications. While most cancer patients in cities have access to some medications, the treatment they receive is inadequate and provides only limited relief, Human Rights Watch found.

  • September 9, 2010

    Government Failure to Provide Palliative Care for Children in Kenya

    This 78-page report found that most Kenyan children with diseases such as cancer or HIV/AIDS are unable to get palliative care or pain medicines. Kenya’s few palliative care services provide counseling and support to families of chronically ill patients, as well as pain treatment, but lack programs for children.

  • October 28, 2009

    India’s Obligation to Ensure Palliative Care

    This 102-page report found that many major cancer hospitals in India do not provide patients with morphine, despite the fact that more than 70 percent of their patients are incurable and likely to require pain treatment and palliative care. Health centers offering services to people living with HIV similarly do not have morphine or doctors trained to prescribe it.

  • March 3, 2009

    Access to Pain Treatment as a Human Right

    In this 47-page report Human Rights Watch said that countries could significantly improve access to pain medications by addressing the causes of their poor availability.

  • November 7, 2007

    Russia’s Human Rights Obligation to Provide Evidence-based Drug Dependence Treatment

    <table cellpadding="3" cellspacing="0"><tr><td><img src="; align="left" border="0" /></td> <td valign="top"> In this 110-page study, Human Rights Watch found that the treatment offered at state drug treatment clinics in Russia was so poor as to constitute a violation of the right to health.</td></tr></table>