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Nothing to Stop the Pain

Published: February 12, 2014 (Issue # 1797)




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Afew days ago, retired Rear Admiral Vyacheslav Apanasenko put anend tohis own life. He earlier helped develop theBulava missile but later struggled with terminal cancer. Although he had little hope ofsurviving, he could have spent his remaining days inthe company offriends andrelatives. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs died froma similar illness, andhe managed tocontinue working almost right up until theend. Apanasenko preferred shooting himself. Inhis case, euthanasia was preferable tothe treatment provided bythe medical system.

Euthanasia is illegal inRussia, but it remains common practice. Relatives kill their loved ones rather than watch them suffer inagony without painkillers. Patients commit suicide, andone patient even killed his doctor who was prolonging his torment before taking his own life.

News reports have been rather vague inexplaining Apanasenkos cause ofdeath. Thenewspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported only that he had aserious case ofcancer andexperienced difficulty obtaining painkillers. But his daughter gave amore dramatic description ofthe situation ina Facebook post:

Papa had late-stage pancreatic cancer, she wrote. He courageously endured thepain. Mama tried toobtain themorphine he had been prescribed. Toget afive-day supply ofvials, forseveral days she had torun fromoffice tooffice inthe medical center forhours ata time. Onthe final day, she was short ofone signature when themedical center closed. She came home completely burned out andwithout theanesthetics. Papa was outraged. This was thelast straw. That night he got everything ready andleft anote clearly stating his reasons. I ask that you not blame anyone except theHealth Ministry andthe government. I am prepared tosuffer, but it is intolerable tosee my loved ones suffer. He wrote thetime anddate andsigned it. Then he took his prized pistol. I think that with this act he wanted todraw attention tohow cancer patients are treated inRussia.

TheFederal Drug Control Service headed byViktor Ivanov, alongtime associate ofPresidentVladimir Putin, created this inhumane system forcontrolling theissuance ofpainkillers.

Terminally ill patients andthose insevere pain must navigate ahellish bureaucracy toobtain even five vials ofpotent painkillers. Then, they must return theunused vials andbottle labels after thepatient has died. Not only is it difficult andfrustrating toget theclinic staff tosign off onthe returned items, but therelatives are held criminally responsible forfailing todo so even if they have accidentally lost them. Cancer patients are assigned toa single pharmacy that works with themedical center or cancer clinic inquestion. If that pharmacy does not have themedicines forwhatever reason, thepatient is left toscream inpain or die ofshock. Insome cases, individuals with late-stage cancer must personally appear toreceive aprescription forthe medicines that can relieve their suffering. Long weekends or holidays become aliving nightmare forpatients andtheir relatives because each prescription covers only ashort period andregulations make it impossible tostock up inadvance.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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