Overcoming barriers to pain relief in the caribbean

Developing World Bioethics 9 (3):99-104 (2009)
This paper examines pain and pain relief in the Caribbean, where pain is widely perceived as an unavoidable part of life, and where unnecessary suffering results from untreated and under treated pain. Barriers to pain relief in the Caribbean include patient and family attitudes, inadequate knowledge among health professionals and unduly restrictive regulations on the medical use of opioids. Similar barriers exist all over the world. This paper urges medical, nursing and public health professionals, and educators to examine attitudes towards pain and pain relief and to work towards making effective pain relief and palliation more accessible. It recommends that i) health professionals and officials be better educated about pain, palliation and opioids, ii) regulatory restrictions be updated in light of clinical and scientific evidence, iii) opioid procurement policies be adjusted to facilitate increased medical use, iv) medical charts and records be modified to routinely elicit and document patients levels of pain, and v) educational campaigns be developed to inform the public that moderate and severe pain can be safely relieved at the end of life and other stages of life. The professional, respectful, and beneficent response to patients in pain is to provide rapid and aggressive pain relief or to urgently consult a pain or palliative specialist. When a health system hinders such efforts the ethical response is to identify, facilitate and advocate for overcoming barriers to improvement.
Keywords medical ethics  practice guidelines  education  duties  developing world  treatment  healthcare
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DOI 10.1111/j.1471-8847.2009.00262.x
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