Dr. Katherine I. Pettus, PhD, IAHPC Advocacy Officer, reports on key advocacy meetings in Geneva and Vienna and describes how IAHPC will contribute to this year’s World Day of the Sick
After a very pleasant Christmas break visiting family and friends in Taos, New Mexico and San Diego, I returned to a full work schedule in Geneva. The first items for attention were preparations for the 140th session of the World Health Organization Executive Board (WHOEB) meeting, and the three-day Commission on Narcotic Drugs Intersessional meeting in Vienna.
This was the second post-UNGASS intersessional meeting at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to review what member states and providers on the ground are doing to implement the operational recommendations in the seven thematic chapters of the UN General Assembly Special Sessions (UNGASS) Outcome Document. Delegates and The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) staff discussed each chapter for a minimum of half a day (three hours). Improving the availability of controlled medicines, Chapter Two, was heard on Monday afternoon. As civil society (non-governmental) organizations could have four speaking slots of three to four minutes for each chapter, the Vienna Non-Governmental Organization Committee (VNGOC) Coalition on Drugs (of which I am Vice-Chair) put out a call to more than 1,000 NGOs to submit the names of speakers to address one of the thematic areas. Speakers could participate in person or by video. We encourage all partners interested improving access to controlled medicines to join the VNGOC. Please contact me for information about how to join.
On the issue of controlled medicines, we had two speakers: Kseniya Shapoval from the International Renaissance Foundation in Kiev, Ukraine and Dr M.R. Rajagopal from Pallium India. Links to their excellent presentations can be found here and here. I wrote a blog for Pallium India explaining the CND Intersessional process and civil society participation that can be found here.
Consideration of each thematic chapter in the plenary began with presentations from the relevant divisions in UNODC and The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) followed by member state interventions, and civil society. Unfortunately, because the intersessional took place at the same time as the WHO Executive Board meeting, WHO staff could not be present for the meeting.
IAHPC has prepared a concept note for World Day of the Sick, February 11, 2017, documenting the official position of the Catholic Church on palliative care and the use of controlled medicines to treat severe pain and symptoms, and encouraging partners to spread this good news to patients and hospital administrators. Given that there are 1.6 billion Catholics in the world, many in the developing countries, and that the Catholic Church runs more than 26% of all healthcare facilities in the world, their leadership on palliative care and access to controlled medicines could make an enormous difference in caring for people with advanced illness. We note that many healthcare organizations that treat Catholic patients are unaware of these excellent teachings, and hope that this note will begin to remedy that deficit.
Church teachings explicitly endorse palliative care and the use of controlled medicines to treat pain, and distinguish both from euthanasia. Palliative care is definitely pro-life, and should be promoted as such, especially given the growing movement to allow physician-assisted dying and euthanasia, even in less developed countries. IAHPC has published a statement on Physician-Assisted Dying and Palliative Care.
During two days of civil society preparations for WHOEB140 hosted by the new Geneva Global Health Hub I met many activists from around the world whose organizations, like IAHPC, are in official relations with WHO, and who support one another in advancing a progressive health agenda and reducing the distorting role of private industry in WHO. I gave a presentation on how palliative care relates to at least seven items on the agenda of the meeting, Links to IAHPC interventions regarding palliative care and controlled medicines (on seven agenda items) can be found here.
Look out for more IAHPC global advocacy news and texts of statements at the WHO Executive Board in the March issue of the newsletter.