Opinion | Sexuality

Is Pain Relief a Human Right?

My daughter's own experience with pain has helped me answer this question.

The International Association for the Study of Pain issued a declaration saying it is. People have a right to receive pain relief, without discrimination, via medications and non-medication techniques; to have pain assessed as a vital sign; to be treated by medical personnel trained in pain management; and to have chronic pain recognized as a disease entity that requires comprehensive treatment.

In a related story, Human Rights Watch published a report revealing that "most Kenyan children with diseases such as cancer or HIV/AIDS are unable to get palliative care or pain medicines," because existing programs don't serve children, health-care workers are inadequately trained in managing pain, and inexpensive opioid medications are scarce due to government policy and providers' reluctance to give these drugs to children.

I learned of these developments while I was also reading—actually, devouring—Melanie Thernstrom's acclaimed new book, The Pain Chronicles: Cures, Myths, Mysteries, ...

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