200852 Implementing A Right to Palliative Care: A Progressive Public Health Approach

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Timothy W. Kirk, PhD , Department of History & Philosophy, City University of New York-York College, Jamaica, NY
In 2007 the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, declared palliative care and the relief of suffering to be basic human rights. Many other organizations have issued similar calls, and asked the United Nations (in 2001 and, again, in 2008) to recognize a fundamental right to palliative care. While such a declaration has been embraced by many in palliative care, it is not at all clear what such a declaration means.

One way to look at the practical implications of such a declaration is through the lens of public health ethics. What does it mean to assert palliative care as a positive right in global health? How is such a declaration justified ethically? How should one think about such a right in a world where entire populations still lack access to basic health needs such as clean water, effective and hygienic waste collection and disposal, vaccination and primary care, and basic safety?

This presentation uses a public health ethics framework to explore and critique the claim of a human right to palliative care. Drawing on parallel analyses in the public health literature of (a) a right to health and (b) a right to health care, it argues that such a right is best understood as (1) progressively realizable, beginning with the right to pain relief and (2) moving toward an interdisciplinary model of palliative care that reconceptualizes the broader right to health care such that it would, by definition, include palliative care.

Learning Objectives:
(1) Explain the context and history of claims concerning a right to palliative care; (2) Compare different approaches to conceptualizing such a right; (3) Assess the difficulties of operationalizing a right to palliative care; (4) Demonstrate how drawing on a framework of public health ethics as applied to other health-related rights yields one way to push ahead toward the realization of such a right

Keywords: Human Rights, Bioethics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have published on the ethics of hospice and palliative care, work with several international research groups on related topics, hold a PhD in Philosophy specializing in healthcare ethics, and am currently an MPH student at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

See more of: Ethics SPIG Round Table
See more of: Ethics SPIG