Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has brought a tsunami of suffering that is devastating even well resourced countries. The disease has wreaked havoc on health systems and generated immense losses for families, communities, and economies, in addition to the growing death toll. Patients, caregivers, health-care providers, and health systems can benefit from the extensive knowledge of the palliative care community and by taking heed of long-standing admonitions to improve access to essential medicines, particularly opioids for the relief of breathlessness and pain.
In agonising, crippling pain from lung cancer, Mr S came to the palliative care service in Calicut, Kerala, from an adjoining district a couple of hours away by bus. His body language revealed the depth of the suffering.
We put Mr S on morphine, among other things. A couple of hours later, he surveyed himself with disbelief. He had neither hoped nor conceived of the possibility that this kind of relief was possible.
Mr S returned the next month. Yet, common tragedy befell patient and caregivers in the form of a stock-out of morphine.