Health Care Reform: A Human Rights Approach

By Audrey R. Chapman | Go to book overview
Save to active project


International Human Rights and
Health Care Reform

The right to health care is firmly entrenched in the major international human rights documents. For example, Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care...". Likewise, Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes the right to "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. ... [including] the creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness." 1 These two documents, along with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are the principal international documents in the field of human rights.

These obligations have been accepted by most countries. For example, over 90 states, including most of the countries of Europe (most of which also accept more detailed regional health care obligations through the European Social Charter), are parties to the Covenant. The United States, by contrast, is not a party to the Covenant or to any other international legal instrument that recognizes a right to health care.

International law, however, should not be seen as a solution, or even very much help, in reforming the United States health care system. With very few exceptions, obligations in international law are voluntary. This is most evident in the case of treaties, executive agreements, and similar instruments, which are the principal source of contemporary public international law. States are free to chose to become a party to a treaty or not. A state that chooses not to recognize a right to health care violates no international legal obligation. And even if it did, there is the notorious problem of enforcing public international law. For example, the international "enforcement" provided by the Covenant extends no further than the requirement to


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Health Care Reform: A Human Rights Approach


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 314

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?