Washington, D.C, 17 December 2018 (PAHO/WHO) – Experts from across the Region of the Americas and further afield met at the Headquarters of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) last Monday to discuss the right to health and the role of national courts in legally enforcing this right.
The event, “The Right to Health in National Courts” took place in the framework of International Human Rights Day 2018 celebrations, and convened experts from PAHO, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Organization of American States, Georgetown University Law School’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, members of national supreme courts and representatives from ministries of health from the Region, among others.
“Litigating for the right to health is a road we must explore as a tool for ensuring that everyone’s right to health is respected.”
Litigating for social and economic rights at a national level, including the right to health, is a complex area. Courts have demonstrated that aspects of the right to health, as often reflected in international law and many constitutions of Latin American countries, can be subject to judicial enforcement, for example regarding access to certain cutting-edge treatments and medications, removing patents, withdrawing treatment, etc. The justiciability of this right raises a variety of questions such as exactly what medical treatments people are entitled to receive, to the cost of upholding these rights and whether the rights of an individual to receive a costly treatment should be prioritized over collective rights when faced with limited budgets.
“Litigating for the right to health is a road we must explore as a tool for ensuring that everyone’s right to health is respected,” said Dr. Alejandro Morlachetti, PAHO’s Regional Legal Advisor in Human Rights. “This conference was a vital step towards bringing stakeholders together from the judicial, legislative and executive branches, as well as human rights experts to discuss the fundamental role of courts in protecting the right to health and other health-related rights.”
“The Organization will continue to support its Member States in the promotion of an international rules-based system, where every human being can enjoy the right to health.”
The event consisted of four panel discussions on topics including “Enforcing the Right to Health: A universal and Inter-American system perspective”; “The Right to Health from diverse perspectives”; “Justiciability of social rights and the balance of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches”; and “Experiences related to the Right of Health in national courts”.
“The Organization will continue to support its Member States in the promotion of an international rules-based system, where every human being can enjoy the right to health.” said Dr. Heidi Jimenez, PAHO’s Legal Counsel.
Human Rights Day
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December in celebration of the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, Human Rights Day celebrated its 70th Anniversary under the slogan “Stand up 4 Human Rights”.