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Mapping Palliative Care Provision for Prisoners in Europe

The task force was approved in March 2017.


This task force seeks to address a gap in knowledge about palliative care provision in European prisons. Prison systems vary hugely across countries, and attitudes to and provision for dying prisoners are likewise very variable. Research in this area in some countries is still in its infancy and in others is non-existent. The Task Force will develop an international network of professionals interested in palliative care in prisons. It will then identify individuals willing to lead the proposed mapping work; to begin with we plan to work in the five countries where we have steering group members; other countries will be added if possible as the work develops. A survey and questionnaire will be conducted in each country to provide rich description of the context and organisation of palliative care for prisoners, and to elicit data on the number and type of prisoners with life-limiting conditions. A White Paper will be produced at the end of the Task Force.  

Aims and Objectives:

           The Task Force has two main aims:

  1. To undertake scoping work in five countries to map the current provision of palliative care for prisoners (UK, Poland, France, Austria, Czech Republic).
  2. To develop an international network of professionals interested in palliative care for prisoners from as many European countries as possible, and other countries outside of Europe.

           The objectives of the Task Force are:

  • To develop contacts and links within prison services and prison health services in each country
  • To identify country leads
  • To undertake a survey and questionnaire of palliative care for prisoners in five countries
  • To produce an EAPC White Paper on palliative care for prisoners
  • To produce a paper for publication about palliative care for prisoners.



Prisoner populations in many countries are rising, in part because of ageing populations, and as a consequence there are increasing numbers of prisoners approaching the end of life in custody. Whilst research in this area is developing in some countries, in others there is little or no research, and even where there is a growing body of research it is still in its infancy and there remain large gaps in knowledge. In addition, different countries have different policies and approaches to dying prisoners; in some places such prisoners would always be released at the end of life, whilst in other countries compassionate release is rare. To date there has been no scoping or mapping work undertaken across European countries, so there exists no overview of palliative care provision for prisoners.

This Taskforce will begin to address this lack of knowledge by scoping palliative care provision in prisons in five European countries. However, in order to do this we first need to gain an understanding of prison systems and structures in each country, and also develop links with key individuals working within the prison systems in each country. 


In order to map palliative care provision for prisoners, a survey will be undertaken using a structured questionnaire. This will be developed by the members of the Taskforce and circulated to the people identified as country leads.

The survey will be split into two parts:

  1. Description of prisons and prison systems in each country

Each country will provide a description of the situation in that country, including information on:

  • Prison population, types and nature of prisons
  • Population trends and projections for next 5-10 years
  • Existing palliative care services and provision for prisoners approaching the end of life
  • Examples of good and/or innovative practice.

Sources for this information will include national statistics from ministries of health, ministries of justice, prison administrations, national prison advocacy organisations, networks etc

  1. Questionnaire

A short, specific questionnaire will be sent to all prisons in each country in order to find out:

  • The total number of prisoners at the time of the survey
  • The number of prisoners with life-limiting conditions at the time of the survey
  • The characteristics of the medical conditions of these prisoners (type of disease, prognosis etc)
  • Policies and practices regarding access to and dispensation of controlled medicines for palliative care.

The Taskforce will run for 3 years from May 2017 to May 2020.


Outcomes: Milestones:
Taskforce Activities  
Formal launch of Taskforce May 2017 (at EAPC in Madrid)
Identification of country leads December 2017
Development of survey and questionnaire July 2018
Collection of descriptive data (Part A) December 2018
Analysis of descriptive data April 2019
Distribution and completion of questionnaire (Part B) July 2019
Analysis of questionnaire data December 2019
Preparation of White Paper May 2020
Management of Taskforce  
Steering group meetings (6 monthly) July 2017, January 2018, July 2018, January 2019, July 2019, January 2020
Workshop/presentation at EAPC Congresses May 2018, May 2019, May 2020
Interim EAPC reports Sept 2017, March 2018, Sept 2018, March 2019, Sept 2019,  March 2020.
Final EAPC report September 2020
Peer reviewed publication submitted December 2020



The International Observatory on End of Life Care, Lancaster, UK

Financial Plan:

The work will be undertaken by the Steering Committee with help from members of the Taskforce as appropriate. Each of the five countries involved in the survey will designate a person to take responsibility for the distribution of the survey in his/her country. If necessary, funding will be sought within each country to conduct the survey.



Dr Mary Turner,

Reader in Health Services Research,

University of Huddersfield,


Huddersfield, HD1 3DH, UK

To contact please click here


Prof Piotr Krakowiak,

Professor of Social Work,

Nicolas Copernicus University,

Torun, Poland

To contact please click here


Steering Committee

Dr Katherine Pettus, Advocacy Officer, IAHPC; Vice Chair, Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs; Secretary, NGO Committee on Ageing, Vienna, Austria.

Juliana Bindasova, Research Fellow, Centre for Palliative Care, Prague, Czech Republic.

Aline Chassagne, Researcher, Clinical Investigation Centre 1431, University Hospital Besancon, France and PhD student in sociology and anthropology, University of Bourgogne, France.


Elodie Cretin, Researcher, Clinical Investigation Centre 1431, University Hospital Besancon, France



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