Urging governments to relieve suffering and ensure the right to palliative care
|Working together to advocate access to palliative care as a human right:
- European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC)
- International Association for Palliative Care (IAHPC)
- Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA) and
- Human Rights Watch (HRW)
- The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)
Access to palliative care is a human right under the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. In certain cases where patients face severe pain, failure to provide palliative care can also constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Palliative care can effectively relieve or even prevent this suffering and can be provided at comparably low cost.
Yet, the governments of many countries throughout the world have not taken steps to ensure patients can realize this right. In many countries palliative care is not available at all or access to it is very limited. This causes millions of severely ill or dying people to suffer from pain and other preventable or treatable symptoms. This is true not only for patients with cancer but also for those with advanced heart, lung or kidney diseases, and progressive neurological diseases or from treatment resistant infectious diseases such as HIV /AIDS or tuberculosis. Palliative care also offers improved quality of life even for people in late stage dementia.
1. Governments should develop health policies that address the needs of patients with life-limiting or terminal illnesses
- Governments should develop comprehensive health care policies that provide for integrated palliative care, along with other forms of health services,
- Governments should ensure that the laws include support to the relatives of patients during the time of care and after the time of death.
2. Governments should ensure access to essential medicines, including controlled medications, to all who need them
- Governments should identify and eliminate unduly restrictive barriers which impede access to controlled medications for legitimate medical use,
- Governments should ensure that they develop an appropriate system for estimating their need for such medications so as to ensure that availability is guaranteed without interruption,
- Governments should ensure that they establish safe and secure distribution and dispensation systems so that patients can access the opioid medications regardless of their prognosis, place of treatment or geographic location.
3. Governments should ensure that healthcare workers receive adequate training on palliative care and pain management at undergraduate and subsequent levels.
- Governments should adopt the necessary changes in the training curricula for healthcare providers (medical, nursing, pharmacy, psychology, etc) at undergraduate levels to ensure that all healthcare workers obtain basic knowledge about palliative care and are able to provide it to patients regardless of where in the healthcare system they work,
- Governments should support the development and implementation of postgraduate and specialty palliative care programs so that patients with complex cases can receive appropriate care,
- Governments should ensure that adequate continuing education courses in palliative care are available to current healthcare workers.
4. Governments should ensure the integration palliative care into healthcare systems at all levels.
- Governments should design and develop plans to create and implement palliative care units, groups and programs according to morbidity and mortality indicators, and population dispersion data.
Please read the compelling true stories from all over the world which demonstrate the importance of palliative care being accessible to all who need it!
Please see also the Prague Charter Translations.
Open Society Foundations: Health and human rights – a resource guide
This comprehensive document provides in chapter 4 background information on the international legal covenants and resolutions that confirm palliative care as a human right. The document is available online and as a download pdf-file, in English, Russian, Spanish and some other languages.
United Nations. Universal declaration of human rights
Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is prohibited under article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) in 1948.
United Nations. International covenant for civil and political rights
Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is also prohibited under article 7 of the International Covenant for civil and political rights from 1966.
United Nations. International covenant on economic, social and cultural rights
Failure to ensure access to palliative care violates the human right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as specified in article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights from 1966.
International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care. Joint Declaration and Statement of Commitment on Palliative Care and Pain Treatment as Human Rights
This declaration was released in 2009 and forms the basis of the Prague Charter.