Almost 600,000 people die every year in Mexico, nearly half of them as a result of chronic illnesses such as heart and lung disease, diabetes, HIV or cancer. Hundreds of thousands more Mexicans battle with earlier stages of these and other chronic illness. Over the course of their illness many of these people experience debilitating symptoms such as pain, breathlessness, anxiety and depression. To ensure proper medical care for many of these individuals, access to palliative care and pain medicines is essential. Without these services, they will suffer needless pain and distress undermining their quality of life and that of their families in their final days of life.
In Mexico, access to palliative care services and to medicines essential for pain treatment is very limited. Human Rights Watch found that currently only a few dozen public healthcare institutions in the country offer palliative care and even fewer provide it in patients' homes. Most healthcare personnel have received no training in the discipline, and few doctors are licensed to prescribe strong pain medicines that are essential for palliative care. Where palliative care is available it is often due to the efforts of individual physicians or advocates rather than the result of a deliberate policy of the government, health system or insurer.