By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC
I am always uncomfortable when a new “fundamental right” is declared that nobody knew existed before. I mean if everything that is beneficial is a “right,” then eventually the concept itself will become watered down like inflation devalues currency. Or to put it another way, if everything people want or should have is a right, those truly important fundamental freedoms we now possess can come to seem much less important.
But that quibble aside, I am in total support of declaring that providing adequate pain control is a primary goal of medicine — and that failing to do so breaches the duty of care to patients. And I totally endorse the goal — if not the terminology — of the ” “Declaration that Access to Pain Management is a Fundamental Human Right.” From the story:
In its “Declaration that Access to Pain Management is a Fundamental Human Right,” delegates to the inaugural International Pain Summit proposed that all people:
- Have a right to the access to pain management without discrimination.
- Have a right to be both informed about how their pain can be assessed through the recording of a fifth vital sign, and informed about the possibilities for treatment.
- Have a right to access an appropriate range of effective pain management strategies supported by policies and procedures appropriate for the particular setting of health care and the health professionals employing them.
- Have a right to access appropriate medicines, including but not limited to opioids, and to access health professionals skilled in the use of such medicines.
- Have a right to assessment and treatment by an appropriately educated and trained interdisciplinary team at all levels of care.
- Have the right to a health policy framework that, in governing pain relief treatment in the social, economic and regulatory environment, is compassionate, empathetic and well-informed.
- Have a right to access best-practice, non-medication methods of pain management (ranging from relaxation and physiotherapy methods to more complex cognitive behavioral treatment) and to specialist-performed interventional methods, depending upon resources of the country.
- Have a right to be recognized as having a disease entity, requiring access to management akin to other chronic diseases.
Additionally, the declaration proposes that:
- Healthcare professionals have an obligation to offer a patient in pain the management that would be offered by a reasonably careful and competent healthcare professional.
- Governments and all healthcare institutions establish laws, policies and systems that will help promote — not inhibit — access to pain management.
I like pain as the fifth vital sign, not a new concept, but one that needs continual reinforcement.
Promoting good pain control is good medicine and good ethics — and it is woefully in short supply in many poorer countries. The more patients — and doctors — are educated about its importance, the better.
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