The Right to Health

The right to life is a basic tenet of human rights.  It follows that the right to health, prevention of torture and human right abuse and proper health care are fundamental to a good quality of life. Death from denied access to health facilities and poverty is just as unacceptable a violation of person’s rights to life as death from torture or a death from squad bullet. In the public discussion, there has –understandably perhaps – been a separate emphasis in the human right movement on such violations as torture, extrajudicial executions, disappearance, and political rights.  We seek to emphasize the inseparability of all human rights, including the right to health.

The relationship between health and human rights not only embraces civil and political rights but the right to affordable, accessible, and culturally acceptable health care services. This right is persistently threatened by economic, political, social and other environmental inequities. In many countries under oppressive regimes and military occupation, like the situation in Palestine, numerous additional obstacles to health exist:  a lack of freedom of movement – with military checkpoints impeding ambulances and health care professionals, the movement of medical supplies, and residents from accessing local health centers.  Furthermore, crowded living conditions, a lack of access to clean water, and ineffective sanitation threaten the health of Palestinians.

Research and capacity building in regions where human rights respects are highly needed is an important first step in understanding and intervening in the psychosocial degenerative effects of human rights abuses. Human rights abuses are, however, always human behaviors that are inflicted upon human beings who suffer physically and psychologically.

We believe that cultivating a comprehensive approach to human rights is a developmental process. Such process is established through the presence of social justice, equity, community development and social change, the right to health and education, and the right to live in peace and dignity. This process requires people’s involvement in decisions related to their lives, as well as examining the positive and negative conditions that promote human rights and human rights abuses.

We look at the process of choosing a specific human right to focus on at the exclusion of others could be defined as a selective
approach to human rights. Such a process concentrates on improving the conditions of one aspect of human rights in a community. Alternatively, comprehensive human rights focuses on the process of empowerment and increasing control over all influences that impact the basic rights, selective human rights assumes that political rights create and ensure control over human rights promotion maintained by politicians. This does not mean, however that selective human rights are not crucial in addressing certain sufferings such as torture. However, by only addressing those apparent abuses, the fear that we constantly risk attempt to address the end result of the problem instead of addressing the root causes of and/or the social conditions underlying these abuses.