Human Rights and Public Health: Towards a Balanced Relationship
The International Journal of Human Rights (Special Issue), 19(4) 2015
17 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2014 Last revised: 4 Aug 2015
Date Written: June 23, 2015
In international law there are many references to the protection of public health contrasting with other interests, including the interests of trade, commerce, intellectual property protection, transportation and warfare. Potentially, in such contexts, the ‘right to health’ as an economic and social right can be used as an additional collective claim to advance the health of the public, thus counterbalancing such interests as international and domestic trade and the conduct of warfare. While this approach has potential, it should be born in mind that public health measures potentially infringe on the civil and political rights of individuals, including their rights to privacy and freedom of movement. We are thus dealing with a complex relationship between public health, human rights and international law that is still ill-understood. An integrated approach to human rights, taking into account both civil and political and economic, social and cultural rights, seems the most balanced response to public health concerns.
Keywords: public health; global health; health security; human rights; right to health; international trade; tobacco control; civil and political rights; the right to privacy and family life; the right to physical integrity; limitation clauses; derogation clauses
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