Dissertations Public International Law

Elzuway, Saleh M. (2013) The right to health care in international law. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: http://encore.lib.gla.ac.uk/iii/encore/record/C__Rb2982009


Health is an important matter for both individuals and states. Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR), health has been categorised as a human right. In the years following this Declaration, many international treaties and national constitutions have emphasised this issue;for example, article 12 of the International Convention of Economic, Social and Cultural rights 1966 (ICESCR). However, as this thesis notes, the language in which this right is cast varies. This, it is argued, is problematic for any attempt to vindicate the right and ensure its justiciability. Accordingly an alternative definition is explored and clarified in what follows. In first chapter, the focus is on arguing that, the current phrases such as ‘right to health’, ‘right to medical care’, ‘the human right to highest attainable standards of health’ and ‘right to health protection’ are vague and weak and may prevent a clear understanding of the expectations that people may legitimately have. The main outcome is to describe a workable and more precise right which can also be legally enforced; that is, the right to health care. In the second chapter, the legal sources of the right to health care in international law are explored. In particular, it is argued that there are obligations on states to implement this right and, as members of the international community and the main subject of international law, to take all necessary steps to put it into practice by translating these obligations into domestic law, thus ensuring that health care is treated as a human right In addition, this chapter also describes the general principles of human rights, such as non-discrimination, participation and equity, that ought to be taken into account by the state`s authorities when they implement the right in question. The following two chapters are devoted to examining the status of the right to health care in the United Kingdom and Libya as models of developed and developing countries.According to health Act No 106 of 1973, health care appear to be simply human right in theory in both national law and international commitments however in practice the government as well as the judiciary did not take it seriously. As result, the case laws have not considered such right as human right nor a legal right for Libyans. In the UK, the reluctance of the government to treat health care as legal right has not stopped judges to evaluate health decisions makers and adjudicate whether such decisions were proper with the case in question. Thus, the chance for UK citizens to review the decisions of the health authorities is wider under the judicial review in terms of legal right rather than human right. In the conclusion, it is proposed that the main problem in according the right to health care the status of a human right is not in fact related to any inability of the judiciary to deal with social and economic rights, nor is it reliant on disagreement about the legal nature of the right and whether it should be categorised as a negative or a positive right, but relates rather to the meaning of the right and what it should include. It is further proposed that the right defended in this thesis – the right to health care – can solve this problem by clarifying the nature and content of the right. The UK experience shows that when such clarity exists, the debate about whether or not the right exists or is justiciable becomes irrelevant. Equally, the state can ignore the international distinctions between types of right and invest health care with the status of a justiciable right in domestic law. While the interim Libyan Government refers to a right to health care in its new constitution, it is clear that political will is necessary to translate it into reality. The Libyan state has much to learn from the healthcare and legal structures of the United Kingdom; particularly it can learn from examination of the mechanisms by which the UK, and other European nations and organisations, have effectively avoided the debate about whether or not the right to health care can be categorised as a human right by developing jurisprudence that renders it clear and justiciable in and of itself.

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