There's been a spate of suicides among cancer patients in Russia and family members say their loved ones took their own lives because of unbearable pain, the result of government rules that make it hard to get pain-killing drugs.
A new Russian law aims to make the process more humane, but patient advocates say it doesn't go far enough.
There's a support hotline for cancer patients called Project Co-operate, where volunteers offer advice and information to callers from all across Russia.
Olga Goldman, the project director, says many callers feel abandoned by government social services.
"They are humiliated by the system," Goldman says. "Nobody tells you how you do it. You have to dig it out yourself. So this is the problem. There is no social support for these people."
Goldman's non-profit group works with a stable of volunteers, most of them psychologists, who try to make up for that missing support.
The job of listening to those pleas for help, she says, is so stressful that most volunteers work only four hours a week — more than that and they burn out.
One of the biggest problems for patients, Goldman says, is getting proper treatment for pain when people are in the terminal stages of their illness.
Strict Rules On Painkillers..................
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