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Finland: Pain Management for Dying Patients

(Sept. 28, 2010) On September 23, 2010, the Finnish government announced new guidelines for the care of the dying. The new rules apply to both public and private institutions and state that a patient's wishes must be taken into account in their treatment. Patients' rights extend to choosing a treatment plan and even determining where they die. If they decide they would like to die at home, patients have the right to have pain management treatment there. While Finnish citizens have already had the right to refuse care, they did not necessarily have the right to choose where to die. A new health care bill is being considered that will include the provisions of the guidelines, including the right to pain medication as needed at all stages of illness. (Finland Guarantees Pain Management for Dying Patients, AFP (Sept. 23, 2010),

Eero Vuorinen and Juha Haenninen, Finnish experts on terminal care issues, have criticized the country for shortages of hospice beds and qualified care givers and for lacking a unified policy on palliative care. They also stated that “[p]alliative care in Finland is haphazard and not equally available to people who are dying.” (Id.)

Paula Risikko, Finland's Minister for Health and Social Services, expressed her hope that the new guidelines will “have an effect on how municipalities and hospital districts arrange to care for the dying. Good palliative care is the right of every dying person.” (Id.)