The Human Rights of Older People With Mental Health Conditions and Psychosocial Disability to a Good Death and Dying Well

Carmelle Peisah, Elizabeth L. Sampson, Kiran Rabheru, Anne Wand, Maria Lapid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The human right to a good death and dying well is as important as the right to life. At stake at the end of life are human rights to dignity, autonomy, self-determination and respect for will and preferences, equitable access to quality health care that is needs-based, and respect for family and relationships. Older people with dementia, those with serious mental illness, and those with intellectual disability are vulnerable to “bad deaths” due to violations of these rights. In this paper we explore why this is so and examine existing and potential solutions. A human rights-approach to end-of-life care and policy for older persons with mental health conditions and psychosocial disability is one that is needs-based, encompassing physical and mental health, palliative care, social, and spiritual support services provided in the context of inclusive living. Most importantly, end of life care must be self-determined, and not “one size fits all.” An important remedy to existing violations is to strengthen human rights frameworks to cater specifically to older persons’ needs with a UN convention on the rights of older persons. Finally, as health professionals we have important contributions to make at the coalface by accepting our responsibilities in the area of death and dying. With the concept of the palliative psychiatrist gaining traction and recognition that death is our business, we add that human rights is also our business.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1041-1046
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Death
  • dementia
  • dying
  • end of life
  • human rights
  • intellectual disability
  • mental illness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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