Cultural Accommodation in Health Services and European Human Rights
Nordic Health Law in a European Context: Welfare States’ Perspectives on Patients’ Rights and Biomedicine (Liber/Martinus Nijhoff 2011) 181-200
Posted: 1 Oct 2013
Date Written: 2011
The question of how to deal with cultural diversity in health services has only recently found its way into legal discourses. Aart Hendricks has pointed out that the problems arising mainly relate to two issues. Firstly, there is a demonstrable link between cultural or ethnic origin and the morbidity and mortality rates for certain diseases. This may call for appropriate attention to the relevance of ethnic origin and cultural heritage for diagnosis and treatment. Secondly, it is clear that cultural diversity may impact on communication during the delivery of health services. On the one hand, the language skills of the patient in question can raise difficulties during diagnosis and when obtaining informed consent. On the other hand, the potential lack of ‘cultural sensitivity’ on the part of the health service provider may also present difficulties as this can impact on his or her understanding of the patient and the premises behind the patient’s communication or decision-making and, consequently, on the diagnosis and treatment offered. The issues arising from cultural diversity in health services are, thus, complex and varied but the question of how to deal with them legally is still relatively underdeveloped. This chapter has the aim of casting some light on the basic normative foundations of the claim to cultural accommodation in health services and of discussing the limits of cultural accommodation from a European human rights perspective, with reference to selected examples from Iceland.
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