South African palliative care documentary: From the Brink of Death


Thousands of South Africans are diagnosed with life-threatening illness every year. Most of them will experience severe pain and won’t have access to cheap and effective pain medication. For those who die, many will do so without the basic human right of dying with dignity and without suffering.


Health-e News Service explored the need for palliative care in South Africa through the lives of patients suffering from serious illnesses.They met with a family of a child who was only given months to live, a suffering mother diagnosed with cancer and the doctors who are not only trying to save them, but are working towards relieving their suffering and protecting their basic human right to dignity.

Current legislation makes it difficult for people who are poor and live in rural areas to access pain medication such as morphine. This leaves many to suffer unbearable pain as they are stuck using over the counter medication.Sadly palliative care is almost non-existent in both the public and private health sectors, and it is provided almost exclusively by NGOs in South Africa. Last year more than ¼ of a million South Africans died of AIDS-related illness and 15 000 were diagnosed with drug-resistant TB. Cancer cases are expected to double by 2030. With these harrowing statistics in mind, more needs to be done to improve access to palliative care to all South Africans