Access to Palliative Care: A Neglected Component of the Right to Health

Jun 6, 2011
People facing life-threatening illnesses are deeply vulnerable: often in severe physical pain, worried about death, incapacitation, or the fate of their loved-ones. Much of this anguish is unnecessary. Palliative care effectively manages pain, treats physical symptoms, and offers psychological, social, and legal support for patients and families. Yet palliative care is often unavailable or inadequate, as policy makers and doctors prioritize prevention and curative treatment over quality-of-life care. This report summarizes a June 2011 panel discussion organized by Human Rights Watch and the Open Society Foundations about human rights mechanisms that address the lack of palliative care
  • A right to palliative care can be implied from the overall international human right to health, as well as freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
  • The United Nations committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has affirmed the importance of " attention and care for chronically and terminally ill persons, sparing them avoidable pain and enabling them to die with dignity."
  • Fourteen palliative care medications are currently liste on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines.
  • The WHO estimates that 5.5 million patients with advanced cancer suffer from moderate to severe pain without access to appropriate treatment
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