MANILA – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago urged her colleagues on Sunday to find ways of helping relieve the excruciating pain suffered by Filipinos battling cancer.
Santiago, who last year announced that she had lung cancer, filed Senate Resolution No. 1215 seeking an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on reports that some 45,000 Filipino cancer patients die annually without access to strong painkillers.
“Every year, 98,200 Filipinos are diagnosed with cancer and 59,000 of these patients die. What is more alarming is the fact that 75 percent of those who die first have to endure unimaginable pain,” the senator said, citing data from the Philippine Cancer Society (PCS) and the Association of Southeast Asian Pain Societies (ASEAPS).
Both groups blamed the painful deaths to low access to strong painkillers, such as morphine. They noted that the country’s consumption was at 0.6 milligrams (mg) per capita, way below the global average of 6.11 mg per capita.
Santiago said factors limiting the distribution of pain medication in the Philippines include insufficient public knowledge, lack of support from the medical community, and the refusal of patients to receive treatment despite their needs.
PCS and ASEAPS have urged Congress to amend Republic Act No. 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Law to set rules on providing the seriously ill, especially cancer patients, with easier access to pain medication.
“Congress must ensure that cancer patients have access to means of easing their pain, and are not prevented from such relief by outdated laws, government neglect, or sheer ignorance,” the senator said.
Santiago said the Senate inquiry should identify the best way to address the health issue, which she said undermines Filipinos’ rights to a dignified death.
“It is inhumane for a government to ignore the plea of its people, especially of those in agony due to cancer,” she added.
Santiago was diagnosed with lung cancer, stage four, in June 2014, after months of suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. She remains on medical leave, but continues to fulfill her Senate duties on a priority basis.
Senate records at the end of 2014 showed that Santiago outperformed her colleagues by filing the most number of bills and resolutions so far in the 16th Congress.