Rights-Based Approaches to Preventing, Detecting, and Responding to Infectious Disease
Rights-Based Approaches to Preventing, Detecting, and Responding to Infectious Disease, in Infectious Diseases in the New Millennium: Legal and Ethical Challenges (Mark Eccleston-Turner & Iain Brassington, eds) (2020, Forthcoming)
37 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2020 Last revised: 29 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 25, 2020
Human rights offer universal frameworks to advance justice in public health, codifying international standards to frame government obligations. Health-related human rights have evolved dramatically over the past thirty years to offer a normative framework for justice in preventing, detecting, and responding to infectious disease outbreaks. Where human rights were long neglected in international health debates, the advent of the HIV/AIDS pandemic response would operationalise human rights for public health, as advocates looked explicitly to human rights in framing public health efforts. In this period of heightened fear and emerging advocacy, policymakers first sought to implement human rights law in public health law—viewing discrimination as counterproductive to public health goals, abandoning coercive tools of public health, and applying human rights to focus on the individual risk behaviours leading to HIV transmission. By finding a link between public health and human rights, the health and human rights movement could move away from its early focus on the conflicts between public health goals and individual human rights, employing human rights to advance public health. However, infectious disease control efforts continue to challenge the notion that individual rights can best support population health. In the new millennium—from the 2005 revision of the International Health Regulations to the 2014 birth of the Global Health Security Agenda—policymakers have sought to balance infectious disease imperatives for the public’s health with individual dignity protections in human rights. Yet, national public health efforts continue to employ mechanisms that infringe individual rights—from the recent Ebola epidemics in Sub-Saharan Africa to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that threatens the world—with public health laws violating individual bodily integrity through vaccination mandates, violating individual medical privacy through surveillance and reporting, and violating individual liberty through quarantine and isolation.
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