Each year, an estimated 28,500 Guatemalans experience advanced, chronic illnesses, such as cancer; heart, lung, or renal disease; and HIV/AIDS. Many thousands of them will suffer significant pain related to their illness.

This pain can generally be treated well with inexpensive medications and eased with palliative care: a health service that includes treatment of pain but focuses on improving the overall quality of life of people with life-limiting illnesses.

However, a Human Rights Watch analysis has found that Guatemala’s lack of effort to ensure access to palliative care, regulatory barriers, and needlessly restrictive and complex regulations on controlled substances condemn many patients with pain to needless suffering, with devastating consequences for them and their families.

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