Safeguarding of vulnerable adults at the end of life

Clinical review
First published in print journal End of Life Care by HealthComm UK
Declaration of interests: 
Malcolm Payne
Author profile (accurate when this article was originally published): 
Malcolm Payne, Director, Psycho-social and Spiritual Care, St Christopher’s Hospice, Sydenham, London, Emeritus Professor, Manchester Metropolitan University, and Honorary Professor, Kingston University/St George’s Medical School, Kingston-upon- Thames. Email:

All palliative care patients are defined as vulnerable people. It is the responsibility of healthcare practitioners to be aware of vulnerable adults in their care, whatever the care setting, and to develop and utilise strategies to respond where that vulnerability leads to abuse of people’s human rights. Healthcare practitioners must also develop practical means by which vulnerable adults may be protected from neglect or abuse. It is important that healthcare practitioners acknowledge that vulnerable adults may be at risk of being harmed or neglected by another carer. The most common forms of abuse are neglect and financial abuse. This article will define key terms relating to the protection of vulnerable adults and make suggestions, based on current legislation and policy documents, to assist practitioners to recognise vulnerable, neglected or abused adults in their care and to respond appropriately.

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