LIFE Before Death

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LIFE Before Death – new film released on World Cancer Day 2012              Lukas Radbruch, Chair of Palliative Medicine, University of Bonn, Germany.

LIFE Before Death is the title of a new documentary that was released on World Cancer Day. The film combines stories from cancer patients and patients with HIV/AIDS from across the world with clear statements from experts and advocates in pain management and palliative care. Morphine is cheap, and there is no reason not to give it: this is the central message of the film.

I saw the film at the end of the Leadership Development Initiative course in San Diego,  with many of the physicians that are interviewed in the film being present and talking about their experiences in daily clinical practice. A physician from Uganda described a patient who had excruciating pain from a cancer-related pathological fracture in the leg, but she was not able to give morphine as there was another stock-out, which has recently been happening more frequently than before. This is somewhat ironic, as in some aspects Uganda has been a model for other African countries with the rollout of nurse practitioners, who are allowed to prescribe morphine, providing access to opioids for patients in rural areas who are not able to see a physician.

The film shows examples, such as this one from Uganda, from India, Singapore, Canada and the US. It is an emotional and deeply moving testimonial to the need to provide pain treatment and palliative care in all countries of the world. The professionally made DVD includes the 80-minute feature film, a 55-minute documentary and 50 short films, which you can also watch on YouTube.

The film has been shown on and after World Cancer Day in a number of countries across the world. Palliative care advocates from Asia and Africa have already communicated how they have used this video with good effect to educate their colleagues and to influence stakeholders. So how can we use this film in Europe? In Germany, for example, palliative care is much more advanced, and the lack of access depicted in the film is not really relevant to our setting. However, we could use the film to raise awareness, discuss with students, physicians, donors and the public to point out the crisis in the world. The engagement of viewers could be used to raise donations to support the development of palliative care in developing countries. The International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care already has a funding programme for this purpose. The European Association for Palliative Care  will provide links to other organisations funding palliative care in developing countries and will also accept donations restricted to this purpose. More information about palliative care in developing countries, including publications, toolkits and links to international directories, is also available from the website of the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA).

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