Older people should have to access to palliative care “without undue delay,” say European leaders

Categories: Policy.

The recommendation sets out a number of principles to be followed, and gives examples of good practices, to help governments ensure that older people fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Although it is not binding on member states, the recommendation outlines the official position of the Council of Europe on what countries should do to protect the rights of older people.

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said: “I welcome the adoption of this recommendation which applies for the first time a human rights-based approach to the situation of all older persons, with a view to ensure that they enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms on an equal basis with other people.”

The recommendation includes seven statements specifically on palliative care:

  • Member States should offer palliative care to older persons who suffer from a life-threatening illness or an illness limiting their life expectancy, to ensure their well-being and allow them to live and die with dignity.
  • Any older person who is in need of palliative care should be entitled to access it without undue delay, in a setting which is consistent with his or her needs and preferences, including at home and in long-term care settings.
  • Family members and friends should be encouraged to accompany older persons who are terminally ill or dying. They should receive professional support, for example by ambulatory palliative-care services.
  • Healthcare providers involved in palliative care should fully respect patients’ rights, and comply with professional obligations and standards.
  • Trained specialists in the field of palliative care should be available to lead education and research in the field. Programmes of palliative care education should be incorporated into the training of all health and social care workers concerned, and co-operation between professionals in palliative care should be encouraged.
  • Member States should ensure the adequate availability and accessibility of palliative care medicines.
  • In the organisation of their national palliative care systems, member States should take into account Committee of Ministers Recommendation Rec(2003)24 to member States on the organisation of palliative care.