According to the
discrimination suffered by the elderlies was partially discussed in the
Euromeeting held in Huelva in 2005 during
the conferences given about the elderlies’ dependence. Then, we attested that in
spite of all the efforts made by Worldwide, European or National Institutions,
there is a long way to go until the elderlies’ social exclusion is eradicated;
especially if we consider the fact that the population’s ageing is seen as a
barrier, not to say an « economic disgrace »
institutions such as UNO and the European Union have already taken their
positions; nevertheless, we can corroborate that the level of discrimination
against the elderlies depends on the actions taken by each National
France, the fight
against age discrimination is the main issue of several guideline texts, based
at the same time, on Communitary texts and on the elderlies’
according to the Government, the demographic perspective creates individual
challenges affecting the world at large, since the guideline systems used as a
complement to Social Security are starting to feel a kind of pressure that will
be increased with time.
This view is
dangerous because give a perception of old age people as a part of society that
can easily be exploited and useless in today’s society. This situation can also lead to
discrimination and remissness especially in what has to with sanitary care.
DISCRIMINATION ON HEALTH AND AGE GROUNDS.
Despite the Fact
that non- discrimination on age
grounds is a fully extended right; this type of exclusion can be found in a
developed country such as France.
International agreement on economic, social and cultural rights (Sections 9, 11
and 12) establishes its aims in the following way: “Create, when necessary, health care systems
and economic and social security nets for the old age population in order to
eradicate all forms of violence and discrimination affecting
The elderly has
not to be seen as a useless portion of society just because the might need more
care that those who are younger, since such clichés can entail inequality,
slackness and even abuses. When this segregation affects the elderlies it is
only applied in fields such as labour, training, incomes or loan concession.
However, the sanitary discrimination is the one that affects the elderlies the
Rights’ Code states that the elderlies are entitled to be protected against
health care discrimination. In France, this right has
already been applied for some time in hospitals, health care centres, clinics
and rest homes. For some time the Government and the Parliament has taken
effective measures to stop nourishing discrimination when referring health care
has prohibited any kind of selection based on sanitary risks even when the
patients hold an Insurance covering all kind of illnesses that guarantees the
holder free extra assistance and is also applied to elderly people.
discrimination against the elderly is no longer measurable. The French
Government stated some time ago that this variety of social behaviour is
unacceptable in the 21st Century. In addition public opinion would
not accept this type of exclusion in a world where one of the greatest victories
of science and medicine is the significant increase of life expectancy.
So, in review we
could say that this kina of sectarism against the elderlies has been erradiceted
from the ensamble of the French’s Society. We have just to point out our answers
and admit the hidden existence of health discrimination that can be found among
services and cares perceived.
DEFINING HEALTH DISCRIMINATION.
µ Discrimination because of
defferred assitance :
What does it
In health care services, certain attitudes may affect the quality of the
“sanitary provisions” destined to
the elderly. Sometimes, some members belonging to the medical system tend to
standarize the elderlies’ health difficulties; in other words, they tend to
consider or presume they are due to ageing and, therefore they don’t need to be
treated as younger patients. For instance, for a IMR Scan, a younger person will
get an appointment before an 80 year- old person.
This is not a refusal to assist the patient, but an application of a
priority principle related with the access- sometimes limited- to medical
This way of
direct discrimination, that could be defined as hypocritical, must be taken
hypocritical? Because this attitude doest not intend to provoke prejudices nor
because it doesn’t blame those who inflict it since it is created by the lack of
medical and logistical resources revealing the inherent financial
the equal right to medical assistance of every human being are wrong in their
belief that the elderlies run down health resources, require more assistance
time and efforts and, since there are no material, technical or human means,
this priority must be given to younger patients,
µ Indirect discrimination:
VIOLENCE AND MISTREATMENT
This is the most
dubious discrimination variety, because it violates the right of elder people to
be treated with humanity. This discrimination is usually created by the person’s
poor health conditions. Those responsible for this kind of treatment take profit
from old people vulnerability.
The elderly, ill or disabled people are the easiest victims of this type
of health-related discrimination. The elderly, mainly women, have to face very
often physical and psychological negligence that may even develop into violence
Recent events spread by the media have thrown some light on the
incomplete medical assistance that elder people are given
has to be considered as a way of discrimination?
Because recent researches made by the Labour, Health and Politics Council
show that in 80% of mistreatment cases elder people are involved. This type of
violence can only be inflicted when the victim is a vulnerable person (with
physical or psychological disabilities, senility, etc.) because, if the contrary
situation was given, they would be more respected.
Which is the
best way to explain it?
mistreatment is probable an old reality, but today’s population is starting to
be awared. While in France , in 1999, this
problem was only found in the gerontologic scheme, it has now been converted
into a raising phenomenon
with a rapid development since it has been defined as a part of the
health discrmnatio towards the elderlies.
consciouness makes us have a different view when looking at an elderly person
because we re-evaluate the attitudes, behaviours and procedures related to their
is necessary to highlight that, in most cases, mixed neglection can be found:
physical psychological, medical or even related to financing. To this
classification, the following one can be added:
caused by incompetent, ignorance or even the lack of individual
of Sanitary and Medical institutions only consider valid, and therefore entitled
to prosecution, health discrimination caused by neglection. Mistreatment due to
psychological and “ordinary” negligences is part of the ordinary
This idea that
places mistreatment in the stage mentioned is shared by several health
professionals who find hard to conceive the fact that their professional
behaviour can be considered neglection or discrimination even if they don’t
intend to cause harm.
WHAT TO DO? HOW TO ACT?
In a country
like France where, as has
been mentioned before, the European Charter against the elderlies’ health
discrimination is respected and applied it may happen that:
ŚSome political and economic
parameters to be taken into account by the Authorities.
There is an
important fact changing since “a few decades ago” the planet’s demography: age.
Ageing is a social problem that will increase. Several countries,
France among them,
have put into practice systems in order to guarantee universal assistance. These
Nations wonder about the future of the systems mentioned and the mechanisms
needed to keep and maintain such protections affected by the raise of life
In Europe, the
unavoidable raise of the demographical structure led by population’s ageing
requires that some economic and social problems are solved
- The raise and the geographical regulation on the implementation of
detection techniques (scan, MRI,
The creation of enough
specialised centres according to the existing demand could only follow an
urgent and keen reaction coming from the authorities, the elderlies’ health
discrimination could become a constant feature unacceptable for a developed
ŤStructure adaptation to
sanitary and social offer will need to be adapted.
Let’s take as an
example a priority field: The training
received by doctors and sanitary staff.
doctors, gerontology and geriatrics became compulsory and theoretical subjects
during the second cycle of the training programme only after the Government
ordered enacted on the 4th of March 1997. Furthermore if we take a
look at the index of Pars doctors, we can state that there are only 13 doctors
inscribed under the section of Gerontology and geriatrics specialists.
An adaptation of
home-care assistance by means of doctors and sanitary staff is fundamental. As
we have previously mentioned, the lack of resources, the fatigue of the
relatives assisting the patients, the hostility of sanitary professionals
against geriatrics and the ignorance about certain therapies may provoke health
discrimination; no matter whether it is in a direct way, as in deferred
assistance or indirectly like mistreatment.
The number of
old and “very old” people will exceedingly increase in the next thirty years.
The same thing will happen with chronic diseases and disabilities related to
ageing, assistance and treatment necessities. The need for treatments and
existing number of places offered in hospitals and specialised centres will be
not be enough in order to face the challenges originated by illnesses associated
non-discrimination of the elderlies on health criteria requires the setting of
enough establishments correctly located and provided with the adequate equipment
We can only be
happy to acknowledge that the population’s ageing is in the European Union’s
sanitary political agenda.
But the action
programme chosen when referring to sanitary discrimination because of age must
go further that recognising the disabled and the elderlies’ fundamental rights.
By means of several charters and agreements taking into account the elderlies’
rights. Our Governments have to be aware of the elderlies’ contributions to
society and not just stay with the old-fashioned vision of their economical
impact on the Labour Market.
strategy about the elderlies’ rights must erase all forms of age discrimination,
including the one based on the unequal access to sanitary care.
Even though in France the access to
medical and sanitary subsidies for the elderlies is a reality, this issue
deserves to be considered as a new challenge.