First regional instrument for the protection of Rights of Older Persons includes palliative care

Categories: Policy.

OAS approved the convention during the institution’s recent General Assembly. It was immediately signed by the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay at OAS headquarters in Washington DC.

The purpose of the Convention – the first regional instrument of its kind in the world – is to promote, protect and ensure the recognition and the full enjoyment and exercise, on an equal basis, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of older persons, in order to contribute to their full inclusion, integration and participation in society.

The starting point of the Convention is the recognition that all existing human rights and fundamental freedoms apply to older people, and that they should fully enjoy them on an equal basis with other segments of the population. This includes access to palliative care.

“This is a very important step for everyone. Our slogan of ‘More rights for more people’ is fully in the logic of the Convention, which reaffirms the hemispheric dimension of our work, in this case the commitment to ensure the full enjoyment of the rights of older people, taking into account their needs and specific requirements,” said Secretary General Luis Almagro during the signing of the document, which urges States to adopt “legislative or other measures” that are necessary to give effect to the rights and freedoms of older adults, including awareness campaigns.

At present, people aged 60 or older in the Americas represent 14 percent of the hemisphere’s population (over 135 million). By 2030, nearly two in five people will be 60 or older, and in total there will be more than 215 million older people in the Americas. The Convention will strengthen the legal obligations to respect, promote and ensure the human rights of older persons. Its ratification will carry the obligation of States to adopt measures to guarantee a differentiated and preferential treatment to older persons in all spheres.

The document includes the first codification of palliative care in an international human rights treaty, and includes a comprehensive definition of palliative care.

Sections which specifically mention palliative care are as follows:

  • Article 6 on the right to life requires States to provide: “access without discrimination to comprehensive care, including palliative care… appropriately manage problems related to the fear of death of the terminally ill and pain; and prevent unnecessary suffering, and futile and useless procedures.”
  • Article 11 on the right to informed consent in health matters requires establishment of: “a procedure that enables older persons to expressly indicate in advance their will and instructions with regard to health care interventions, including palliative care.”
  • Article 12 on the right to receive long term care obliges that: “older persons receiving long-term care also have palliative care available to them.”
  • Article 19 on the right to health includes the following obligations: “Promote and strengthen research and academic training for specialized health professionals in geriatrics, gerontology, and palliative care. Ensure that medicines recognized as essential by the World Health Organization, including controlled medicines needed for palliative care, are available and accessible for older persons.”
  • Article 4 on safeguarding human rights obliges states to: “Adopt measures to prevent, punish, and eradicate practices that contravene this Convention, such as: … medical treatments that are, inter alia, inadequate or disproportional or that constitute mistreatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment that jeopardizes the safety and integrity of older persons.”

For the Convention to enter into force it is necessary that at least two signatory countries have ratified it.

You can access the Convention online and use it to advocate for the right of older persons to palliative care.