The Scottish Human Rights Commission has said the rights of older people may have been breached in the response to the pandemic
A human rights body has raised concerns about the response to Covid-19 in care homes.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has said it has serious concerns that the rights of older people may have been breached as care homes responded to the coronavirus crisis.
In a response to Labour leader Richard Leonard, the commission said it is vital an inquiry is carried out in response to the almost 2,000 deaths in care homes.
The SHRC said: “The situation experienced in care homes raises a number of serious human rights concerns under Article 2 of European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the right to life.
“Human rights law is clear that everyone’s right to life must be protected by law and the state has a duty to take action when threats to life occur.
“The state has an obligation to undertake an investigation when life has been lost in circumstances that potentially engage state responsibility under Article 2.”
The commission has said it will publish work examining how Covid-19 has affected those in care homes and receiving social care, and has said it will engage with a public inquiry.
In the letter, the Labour leader highlighted the importance of examining the high number of deaths in Scottish care homes.
He said: "Consideration should be given to the level of palliative care afforded to residents in care homes throughout this crisis and whether people dying prematurely and in pain happened because of the Scottish Government’s policy and guidance.
"With Scotland registering the highest level of Covid-19 care home deaths in the UK, and perhaps proportionately in the world, it is vital that we ensure that lessons are learnt to stop this ever happening again. Particularly, if there is a ‘second wave’ of Covid-19, we must ensure that the rights of older people and adults in care homes are upheld.
"We cannot bring back the victims but we must seek answers to what went wrong and establish whether the rights of older people were compromised. The human rights of residents and staff working in Scotland’s care homes must be respected."
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The loss of life in our care homes because of Covid-19 is a tragedy. Everyone who has died from this virus was a unique and loved individual whose loss is a source of grief to many people.
“The Scottish Government has always placed the upholding of human rights at the heart of its approach and since the start of this pandemic our priority has been to save people’s lives, wherever they live. We have taken firm action to protect care home staff and residents as far as is possible.
“The Scottish Government is not involved in taking decisions about individuals’ care or the settings in which care is provided. A framework of legislation protects the rights of individuals receiving care and throughout this pandemic we have worked closely with our colleagues in the NHS, local government and the voluntary and independent sectors to ensure the needs and rights of residents in care homes are able to be met.
“Any person who has Covid-19 - whether they are in hospital, a care home or their own home - should be treated as an individual. It is essential that human rights continue to be fully respected, protected and fulfilled throughout the current emergency.
“Human rights are absolutely core to all our considerations. All our decisions on the Covid-19 response have been guided by the scientific advice available at the time and we continue to tailor that response as more is learned about the virus.
“We welcome the commission’s recognition of - and willingness to contribute to - the public inquiry we have committed to holding.”