Dr. Katherine Pettus is the Advocacy Officer at the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, a global charitable organisation based in the US. She holds a PhD in Political Theory from Columbia University, and a Masters in Health Policy and Law from the University of California San Diego. She is a trained hospice volunteer and graduate of the Metta Institute for End of Life Care. As IAHPC Advocacy Officer, Katherine works in Geneva at the Human Rights Council, the World Health Organisation; in Vienna at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and in New York at the United Nations Open Ended Working Group on Ageing. Katherine calls for improved access to internationally controlled essential medicines such as oral morphine as a component of the internationally recognized rights to health for children, adults, older persons, and persons with disabilities, and to the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. She advocates for human rights based policies on palliative care within the framework of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Access to essential medicines and UHC are both components of Target 3.8 of the Sustainable Development Goals, or Agenda 2030.
A Human Rights Based Approach to Palliative Care for Older Persons
A human rights based approach (HRBA) to service delivery is a model that places the principles and standards of human rights as central to all aspects of service planning, policy and practice.
A HRBA has the following key elements:
1) Empowers stakeholders: all key stakeholders (policy-makers, care workers and older persons) are empowered and can participate in achieving the realisation of rights, particularly older service-users
2) Takes into account the wider national and international human rights framework: the rights promoted are explicitly linked to national and international human rights law
3) Provides clear accountability
4) Prioritises the most discriminated against, marginalised or excluded people.
A human rights based approach to palliative care would empower patients and families, as well as palliative care teams to identify and request the highest possible quality of life during serious illness, by educating them their rights, including their right to palliative care. A rights based approach to palliative care views older persons, their families, and care providers as rights holders entitled to the highest attainable standard of health, as well as the right to be free from cruel and inhumane treatment. This standard, when applied to life-limiting illness recognizes dying as a natural part of life (WHO Definition of Palliative Care). The 8th Open Ended Working Group on Ageing for the purpose of strengthening the protection of the human rights of older persons” selected long term and palliative care as one of its focus questions for 2018. This paper explains how palliative care strengthens and protects the human right of older persons to palliative care.