NGO experts concerned about draft law on palliative care in prisons

NGO experts comment on the draft law of palliative care in prisons


The Ministry of Justice has released draft proposals for a new law that will ensure that all prisoners receive palliative care in hospital units within the penal system.  Effectively, it will allow for the creation of hospices within detention centres.

The proposals state: “The criminal justice system is to establish the appropriate medical facilities to ensure that all prison inmates are given the palliative care they need.” Click here for further details – сообщается

If prisoners have their sentence reduced or are released from custody, they will be transferred to other medical institutions where they will be able to continue receiving the palliative care they need.

Sergei Shunin, Lawyer for the Committee Against Torture and a Member of the Nizhegorod District Council gives his assessment of the reforms

“At first glance the draft bill appears to make perfect sense: prison inmates or defendants with terminal conditions will no longer have to live out their days in a cell waiting for a court decision on whether or not they can be released. They will be automatically taken for treatment at a medical facility within the criminal justice system and will no longer have their treatment delayed while they wait on a decision from the courts.

But what will it mean in practice?  Will the prison service be running medical institutions? Or will they make arrangements with local hospitals that provide palliative care? Or will it simply mean that the hospitals that already exist within prison camps and detention centres will squeeze in a couple more beds for patients with terminal conditions?

Knowing the state of medical services within the Russian prison system, there is every reason to suspect that this is precisely what will happen.  As prison hospitals are already crippled by staff shortages, it seems hardly likely that by tomorrow there will be medically trained staff queueing up to work in hospices or in the palliative care departments of hospitals on a salary of 10,000 roubles – funds for which, incidentally, still need to be found.  It is far more likely that the reforms will simply increase the existing burden on current medical staff within prisons.

If new hospices are created within the prison service that operate on commercial basis, the cost of the treatment will no doubt be borne by the prisoners’ relatives.  Do you want your dying father/mother to be moved out of detention into a hospice a month earlier? Then you need to pay for it. 

It also seems unlikely that the prison service will have any desire to improve its statistics for the number of prisoners that die in custody (although this number is in fact falling as in recent times a growing proportion of prisoners with terminal conditions have been transferred from their prisons to medical institutions before they die).

There are also important implications for lawyers as they will now be required to submit a medical report on prisoners with terminal conditions.  It means that the end-of-life care that prisoners receive will no longer be the responsibility of doctors within the prison service; it will also be a matter for experts in medical and social affairs.  Whether those experts will be able to absorb the additional workload is another concern.

Irina Biryukova, a lawyer for the Social Verdict Foundation, has given her views on the proposed new legislation on her Facebook account. She writes that prisoners in the past were allowed to spend their dying days in their own home, now they will die in a prison hospice.  Biryukova is particularly worried about the supply of pain-killing medication to patients in prison hospices; she suspects that some of the drugs may not reach the prisoners who are supposed to receive them.



Get involved

Share This