Article by Human Rights Watch explains human rights advocacy approach to palliative care

Categories: Research.

Diederik Lohman and Joseph J. Amon of Human Rights Watch, the article authors, explain the methodology used by Human Rights Watch and partners to promote access to pain medication and palliative care through human rights-based advocacy. (This article was originally published on ehospice International edition on December 14.)

Since 2007, Human Rights Watch have worked with partners to conduct human rights research and advocacy in Armenia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Senegal, and Ukraine on the lack of access to pain medicines and palliative care. The article uses case studies from India, Kenya, and Ukraine to illustrate the impact of this work.

According to the article, the two main rights that may be violated by a lack of access to palliative care are the right to the highest attainable standard of health and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. The article states that governments have:  “(1) a negative obligation to refrain from enacting policies or undertaking actions that arbitrarily interfere with the provision or development of palliative care; and (2) a positive obligation to take reasonable steps to ensure the integration of palliative care into existing health services, both public and private, through the use of regulatory and other powers, as well as funding streams.”

The authors note: “In each country, human rights advocacy helped raise awareness of the issue, identify structural barriers to care, define government obligations, and contribute to the reform of laws, policies, and practices impeding the availability of palliative care services. In addition, advocacy efforts stimulated civil society engagement and high-level political leadership that fostered the implementation of human rights-based palliative care programs. Globally, access to palliative care was increasingly recognized by human rights bodies and within global health and drug policy organizations as a government obligation central to the right to health.”

They found that: “a human rights-based advocacy approach provided new tools and tactics to complement the traditional skill-building provided by palliative care advocates. The result was increased political will to address structural barriers, increased understanding of the technical solutions required, and the protection of the rights of millions of people suffering unnecessary pain worldwide.”

This article represents the first time that the methods used in this effective approach has been published. It contains helpful guidance for palliative care advocates worldwide.

You can read the article online here.