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The Human Right to Health

By news editor, on 3 April 2012

The latest book in the Amnesty International Global Ethics Series, published by Norton is The Human Right to Health, written by Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL Philosophy).

On Tuesday 27 March, Amnesty International hosted a panel discussion to launch this new publication. The panel consisted of Jonathan Wolff, Mike Rowson (UCL Centre for International Health and Development) and Widney Brown (Amnesty International), and was chaired by Steve Crawshaw (Amnesty International).

Panel Discussion
Professor Wolff began by admitting that because of his philosophical roots he was a relatively recent convert to the concept of the human right to health. Despite this, his book defends the concept against multiple criticisms.

The first criticism to be discussed relates to the phrasing of “the right to the highest attainable standard of health” (United Nations).

Three routes of criticism seem to emanate from this statement, firstly, how is attainability measured – globally, nationally or regionally could give very different standards. Secondly, this seems an unreal expectation and thirdly, if this right exists – who is accountable for providing it.

A further point raised was the fact that health itself did not need to be a human right – it could be considered simply a culmination of other human rights.