Free Legal Aid Program to Assist Persons with Disabilities and Palliative Care Patients

6 Aug, 2018

On May 22, the Georgian Bar Association and the Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF) signed a Memorandum of Cooperation, envisaging the launch of a free legal assistance program for persons with mental health problems, intellectual and physical disabilities as well as palliative care patients.

Free legal aid involves the provision of legal assistance to people as well as protection of their interests and their representation in courts over the issues that have emerged in the process of medical care, as well as discrimination and property-related issues.

Patients will be served countrywide by ten highly ranked lawyers from the Georgian Bar Association. They will undergo additional training on the issues related to disabilities, palliative care, and mental disorder.

The hotline for patients will be launched on July 1. Patients who meet service criteria will be able to enjoy the services starting from the same date.

The developments ongoing in the sphere of health and social protection over the past five years (universal health care program, the movement to the voucher system), as well as the calls to the OSGF-supported hotline working on patients’ rights, have clearly revealed all the problems related to human rights protection persisting in the medical sphere. In particular, the hotline project data analysis has revealed that 93% of citizens’ problems and claims were about the financing of medical services and problems related to receiving these services, as well as breaches of confidentiality by medical personnel, lack of informed consent and absence of painkillers.

17 laws and about one thousand normative acts have been adopted in health system since 2000 and all of them aim at regulating the sphere, on the one hand, and protecting patients’ rights, on the other. But although such laws exist in the country, no civil or social advocacy has been developed for the most vulnerable groups – palliative care patients and persons with (physical and mental) disabilities.

One of the most serious problems faced by palliative care patients is access to painkillers and generally receiving medical care.

According to the study conducted in 2017, only 33-38% of doctors authorized to prescribe opioids are familiar with the opioid legislation; only 18-23% use this legislation in practice.

The above-mentioned fact significantly violates a patient’s right to live without pain.

Persons with disabilities frequently suffer from discrimination, cannot afford medical care and cannot frequently enjoy health care services.

Watch the signing ceremony live on Facebook.

Media on this topic: