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The Right to Health in National and International Jurisprudence

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image of European Journal of Health Law

The right to the highest attainable level of health or, briefly, the right to health is a fundamental human right, solidly embedded in international human rights law. As with other human rights, this right creates corresponding obligations for States which they are due to respect, protect and fulfil.

The right to health embodies both positive and negative contents rights, ranging from the right to adequate protection of health to the right to equal access to health care. In addition, the right to health obliges States to create conditions favourable to the achievement and maintenance of the highest attainable level of health.

This article describes and analyses national and international case law with respect to these three components of the right to health in an effort to delineate the general contours of this right. It is argued that courts and other (quasi-)judicial bodies more or less explicitly acknowledge that States are required to ensure a minimum level of health protection, (equal access to) essential health care and satisfaction of basic human needs. From the existing body of case law touching on the right to health it remains, however, difficult to conclude how courts define the minimum core content of the right to health, let alone to gain further insights into the normative meaning of this right.

Affiliations: 1: University of Amsterdam, Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM), Utrecht University


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