A patients group wants lower electricity bills for sufferers of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD).

The Spanish Association for Patients with COPD (APEPOC) says people cannot afford to pay to keep life-saving oxygen machines switched-on.

An estimated five million people in Spain suffer from COPD and its the fourth biggest cause of death.

“Many people are facing tough choices”, said Nicole Hass, a spokesperson for APEPOC:

“With the rise in electricity prices they have to decide between eating and breathing,” she told the Reuters news agency.

APEPOC wants the 17 regional governments to subsidise electricity bills for all COPD sufferers who do get oxygen supplies free of charge.

Hass said. “What use is the oxygen if we don’t have the electricity to plug in the machine?”

Jose Maria Casais, a retired engineer in Barcelona, says he’s being forced to raid his savings every month after his energy bills soared because of his reliance on an oxygen machine to alleviate his COPD.

“It limits everything else and leaves no option for other things,” Casais told Reuters.

His oxygen concentrator pulls air through a compressor, removing nitrogen and filtering oxygen to pass onto him.

Depending on how much difficulty Casais has breathing on a given day, he will be connected between 17 and 24 hours.

Dr. Sergi Pascual from Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar said: “COPD is a chronic, irreversible disease and sufferers need to live a useful and full life and therefore need the necessary funds”.

Patients with kidney failure who need high-usage electricity machines are also struggling, according to two groups.

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