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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

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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