Speech delivered by Mrs. Maria Cavaco Silva at the Opening Ceremony of the Multidisciplinary Conference on Pain
Porto, 14 June 2007

It is gratifying that we are all here, today, for the second time, to award the prizes for the “Children in Pain” Competition.

We would all of course prefer that such competitions did not exist, and I have hopes that scientific progress, so greatly increased in recent times, will make such a dream come true: a world without pain.

Maybe this is utopia. Maybe it is not even desirable since, as we know, acute pain is a warning, a means of diagnosis, the first symptom that something is wrong with us and that whatever it is must be found out.

But, once the diagnosis becomes available, we all know that pain does not bring any benefit whatsoever.

It is thus necessary to reduce it to a level that does not collide with quality of life.

This last week end I read an article by Prof. José Castro Lopes, President of APED (Portuguese Association for the Study of Pain) concerning the National Day of the Fight Against Pain, which we are celebrating today, and was filled with hope with the optimistic statements of someone who knows his subject so well.

Prof. Castro Lopes wrote, and I am just quoting the idea, that with the means we now have available it is possible, in a majority of cases, to reduce the intensity of pain to levels compatible with a good quality of life. And I want to stress the word good. This is what I believe is important.

But we well know that continuous intense pain still exists, which has the capability of doing away with the love for life.

And can we imagine children without love for life?

That unmentionable pain of watching our children suffer without our being able to help, that is the pain I really want to see terminated, and I believe this will happen.

We are also awarding, today, a prize for those who dedicate their life studying means to end with pain.

We have come quite far, but there is still a long way to travel.

While we do not get there, APED remembered to institute these prizes to reward the children who, afflicted by this plague that cannot be seen, but hurts continuously at times and, at others, is excruciating, try to describe with shapes and colours what went through their heads and souls when they felt threatened by that awful monster which is not ashamed to harm even the smaller ones.

Nobody will have taught that monster, that the little ones need peace, happiness and to play before they become grown up.

So they started their work to face that ugly being that had given them bad times, and the result is here for us to see in the exhibition we have just visited.

What a lesson these children, that life did not save from suffering, are giving us, adults!

After we have awarded these well deserved prizes, and having thanked them for their art and their capability of conquering evil with hope, we will all leave here richer, stronger and maybe a little less namby-pamby, if you forgive the expression.

And for this lesson, my dear children, you deserve all the prizes in the world, not just those of APED.

And we adults only have to thank you!