Acknowledging Palliative Care as a Human Right

Categories: Community Engagement.

Access to palliative care has been advocated as a human right by international associations, based on the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. It has been argued that failure to provide palliative care for patients facing severe pain could constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

However many governments have not acknowledged a human right to access palliative care for all those who need it. The Lisbon Challenge was launched in 2011 by the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) in collaboration with the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC) and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls on governments to:

  • ensure access to essential medicines, including opioid medications, to all who need them.
  • develop health policies that address the needs of patients with life-limiting or terminal illnesses.
  • ensure that healthcare workers receive adequate training on palliative care and pain management at undergraduate levels.
  • facilitate and promote the implementation of palliative care services as part of available health services.

The Lisbon Challenge and the subsequent action plan will prepare the way for a resolution at the 13th Congress of EAPC in Prague at the end of May this year (2013). 

The Lisbon challenge was a first step in promoting access to palliative care as a human right. It made a request to governments to ensure policies for palliative care, education of health professionals in palliative care, access to essential palliative care medication and integration of palliative care into country health systems.

Building on the Lisbon challenge, a stronger document was drawn up, entitled: ‘the Prague charter: Urging governments to relieve suffering and recognize palliative care as a human right.’ 

The Prague charter calls on governments to:

  1. develop health policies that address the needs of patients with life-limiting or terminal illnesses 
  2. ensure access to essential medicines, including controlled medications, to all who need them 
  3. ensure that healthcare workers receive adequate training on palliative care and pain management at undergraduate and subsequent levels
  4. ensure the integration of palliative care into healthcare systems at all levels.

Read more about the Prague charter and sign the petition on the EAPC website.