Palliative care is a human right and an essential, defining part of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). This December, palliative care direct stakeholders will raise their voices for palliative care on Human Rights Day (10 December) and Universal Health Coverage Day (12 December).


“Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters” – Margaret Wheatley”

Every year on the 10th of December, Human Rights Day is celebrated by the United Nations and organisations and individuals around the world. The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is enshrined in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Healthcare must be provided by our governments. A very neglected part of many national healthcare plans specifically is palliative care.

According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Human Rights Day commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly implemented the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This year, Human Rights Day is being celebrated by a year-long campaign to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of this milestone document which proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

But are we really getting what we deserve in terms of our rights as citizens? I am sure we all ponder this. Why not then speak up and add our voices, stand up for our rights, beliefs and what we all deserve? Take action and control! It is your future, add your voice.
Universal Health Coverage Day, celebrated globally on 12 December, continues the theme of human rights, with this years’ campaign message: ‘Rise for Our Right!’

The campaign website states that: “Universal Health Coverage is a political goal rooted in the human right to health. But no right has ever been guaranteed until people decided to fight for it. Now is the time to rise for our right to #HealthForAll and drive courageous political action in every nation, every individual and every healthcare plan required.”

It is clear that we need to amplify our voice. Medical illnesses and conditions are common throughout the world, but are healthcare services the same everywhere? NO!
The struggles that each country faces alone to fight for the exact same medical illnesses or conditions are not fair. We all can stand together to demand UHC including palliative care, which is an essential part of living.

Palliative care is neglected throughout the world, but many people are suffering!
It is one thing for the government to list it as a policy in the country, but are national palliative care policies being carried out? Are funds being issued to support these plans? Are people who need palliative care in receipt of it? No! This further illustrates my point that palliative care is highly neglected.

Governments worldwide need to realise that palliative care is not a once off treatment plan, but a way of living for those who need it.
As a palliative care recipient, I know from experience the struggle of the failure to recognise the importance of palliative care myself in my country. It took years for a doctor to believe how much pain I was in daily, how I needed my lifestyle adapted, and most importantly that I needed palliative care.

People look at our outward appearance but never think how much we could be suffering inside or physically. Let’s change that. Humanity is the soul of living.
As palliative care recipients, we do not want to suffer. We want to live life, not just exist. Because, as Rose Kennedy said: “Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.”
We are limited by our medical conditions. The World Health Organization has acknowledged palliative care in their definitions, but our governments are bypassing the term so easily while their own citizens are suffering, struggling on a daily basis to get by.

Palliative Care is a human right, and an essential, defining part of Universal Health Coverage, but yet not taken seriously. People are dying in pain and distress, because they are not receiving palliative care.
Palliative care is highly effective in managing pain and physical symptoms and can improve adherence to medications. However, it also goes much further than physical care. It is a holistic approach that improves the quality of life for patients and their families by also addressing the psychosocial, legal, and spiritual problems associated with life-threatening illness. BUT, we are not getting it as a basic human right!

When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was implemented it was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations,” towards which individuals and societies should “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.”
This is not the case. Our right to palliative care is not universally and effectively recognised and accepted. We need to stand up for our rights, especially our Right to Health #HealthForAll.
Palliative care needs to  be taken seriously globally no matter the barriers it faces. Palliative care is important and should be a goal to which we all strive and stand up for. #StandUp4HumanRights

We are the pioneers of our future. If we want palliative care to be taken seriously, we should unite as one voice as we strive for this much-needed goal globally.
People are dying in pain and distress and national governments need to step up and address this as their responsibility. We should have Universal Health Coverage for all as part of our human right to health.

Palliative Care Voices is an independent network of people living with life-threatening illnesses worldwide. It was founded by Lucy Watts, a palliative care user in the UK, and developed out of a collaborative project with the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance, a global network of 250 hospice and palliative care organisations in 90 countries, and I am proud to be a founding member of the network.

Through Palliative Care Voices, we aim to address needless suffering by empowering ourselves to raise our own voices to demand quality palliative care for all.
On 10 and 12 December this year, raise your voice for palliative care! #PalliativeCareVoices


Published with kind permission of the WHPCA, eHospice International and Huyaam Samuels, author