Seven years after the implementation of the UK Human Rights Act, little more than lip service is being paid to human rights of elderly people in the UK and worldwide. The issues are discussed in an Editorial in this week's edition of The Lancet.
It discusses the UK parliamentary report released last week "The human rights of older people in health care" which focussed on the UK Human Rights Act 1998, which came into effect into 2000. The Editorial says: "This report suggests, seven years after the Act's implementation, health-care policy makers in the UK have paid little more than lip service to those rights and responsibilities, and that service providers themselves have little understanding of The Act itself or how its principles are applied in practice." However, the report also acknowledges much good care is provided, often by undervalued and underpaid staff.
The Editorial also discusses the charges facing Mabel and Salvador Mangano, and their ongoing trial, over the deaths of 35 residents in their careat the St Rita's Nursing Home during Hurricane Katrina which struck New Orleans two years ago. All of the 35 drowned, in wheelchairs or their beds, when the home was rapidly flooded. The Editorial says: "The couple, who have pleaded not guilty, refused an offer of two buses to evacuate the home the day before the storm. They chose instead to 'shelter in place', with catastrophic results. If convicted, each of them could be sentenced to more than 400 years in prison."
Returning to the UK Human Rights Act, the Editorial concludes that the employment of the act as a means for cultural shift in care for the elderly "will work only if the principles of human rights and their attendant responsibilities are embraced by every segment of those involved in caring for older people." It concludes that an enormous amount of continuing education and training will be required to achieve this aim, saying: "Cultural change cannot come about without the participation of all those affected by the issues at hand. Given modern medicine's success at expanding life expectancy, that is a group that, more likely than not, will eventually include most of us."
The paper can be viewed at the link below:
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