and Joseph J. Amon

Palliative care has been defined as care that is person-centered and attentive to physical symptoms and  psychological, social, and existential distress in patients with severe or life-threatening illness. The  identification of access to palliative care and pain treatment as a human rights issue first emerged among  palliative care advocates, physicians, and lawyers in the 1990s, with a basis in the right to health and the  right to be free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Using a case study approach, we evaluate  the results of a human rights-based advocacy approach on access to pain medicine and palliative care in India, Kenya, and Ukraine.

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.

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