Contributed by: Maya Gunnarsson
This February, the McGill Journal of Law and Health hosted a conference on Access to Care and the Constitutionalization of the Right to Health. One panel featured two experts on the right to health and the Canadian constitution. The general argument for the constitutionalization of health is that it will lead to better health outcomes within a society. The panellists, however, questioned this assumption. This article will highlight some of the challenges associated with the constitutionalization of the right to health, as well as explore how this process has played out in other countries.
What is the right to health?
The concept of health being linked to human rights first emerged internationally in the middle of the 20th century, along with the rise of international organizations such as the United Nations and it’s related agencies. The preamble of the World Health Organization’s constitution, which came into force in 1948, declares:
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being […].
Governments have a responsibility for the health of their peoples which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures.
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family.” Since then, this right has been reinforced internationally through various international treaties and declarations, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Continue reading “Constitutionalization of the Right to Health: a Pathway to Improved Health Outcomes?”