Table – The right to health and six other human rights relevant within healthcare systems

Right Definition Relation to healthcare
RIGHT TO HEALTH The right to the enjoyment of a range of facilities, goods, services and conditions necessary for the realization of the highest attainable standard of health. These include both healthcare and underlying determinants of health such as safe water and sanitation. According to this right health facilities, goods and services need to be:

Available in sufficient quantity

This includes availability of:

• healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics

• trained health workers

• essential medicines

• medical equipment and supplies

• underlying determinants

Accessible to everyone

This covers:

• physical accessibility – within safe physical reach of all sectors of the population access to buildings for persons with disabilities

• financial accessibility – affordable for all

• non-discrimination – accessible to all without discrimination

• access to health information – the right to seek, receive and impart information on health issues this should not be at the expense of privacy and confidentiality


This requires that :

• medical ethics are respected

• services meet local needs

• services are sensitive to gender and life-cycle requirements

Good quality

This involves:

• health workers with up to date skills and knowledge

• scientifically approved and unexpired medicines and equipment

• safe water and adequate sanitation

• constant electricity and sufficient lighting



The right to seek, receive and impart information. This includes a government obligation to ensure access to information. This covers:

• information on available healthcare services

• information on health promotion, disease prevention and treatment

• information in different languages, for illiterate, blind and deaf people

• information free from discrimination, stigma or stereotypes

• patients’ access to personal medical records

• information about personal diagnosis and prognosis

• information necessary for informed consent

RIGHT TO PRIVACY The right to be protected against arbitrary or unlawful interference with individual privacy. This covers information privacy, bodily privacy, communications privacy and territorial privacy. This requires:

• confidential treatment of medical records

• confidentiality concerning a person’s health status

• privacy during medical examination and treatment

• full, free and informed consent for medical treatment

RIGHT TO LIBERTY The right not to be deprived of liberty arbitrarily. This means deprivation of liberty must not be manifestly disproportionate, unjust, unpredictable or discriminatory.

Deprivation of liberty should be in accordance with procedures prescribed by law.

This prohibits:

• detainment of patients without a set procedure

• delays in reviewing the institutionalisation of patients

• delays in releasing institutionalised patients

• unnecessary quarantines

• excessive restraints of patients

This requires:

• legal procedures for institutionalisation

• means to challenge involuntary admission

FREEDOM FROM CRUEL, INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT The right to be free from treatment that causes severe physical pain and mental suffering and treatment that is grossly humiliating and undignified. This prohibits:

• physical or mental abuse of patients

• gross neglect of patients

• inadequate living conditions in health institutions

• non-therapeutic and prolonged seclusion or solitary confinement

• medical and scientific experimentation without informed consent

• intrusive and irreversible medical treatment without informed consent

• denial of or delays in treatment

This requires:

• independent medical services for detainees



This is a cross-cutting principle relating to all human rights.

Discrimination means any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of prohibited grounds which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights.

Prohibited grounds of discrimination include race, sex, age, language, religion, political or other opinion, health status, disability, national or social origin, sexual orientation, socio-economic or other status.

Freedom from discrimination covers every aspect of healthcare including:

• access to healthcare services

• access to health information

• quality of healthcare services

• health service delivery

• attitudes of health workers




This is a cross-cutting principle relating to all human rights.

Participation means the active and informed involvement of people and groups in decision-making that affects them.

Participation needs to be accessible and inclusive, fair and transparent.

Participation in health-related decisions is necessary so that healthcare systems can be responsive to the needs and concerns of specific groups.


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