Online Program

Litigating health rights: Can courts bring more justice to health?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 12:45 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Alicia Ely Yamin, JD MPH, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University, Boston, MA
Background: Beginning with HIV/AIDS cases, the last fifteen years have seen a tremendous growth in the number of health rights cases. Yet questions still persist as to when and how litigation can lead to greater social justice in health and enhance the functioning of health systems, rather than distorting practices. In a number of countries, courts are in effect setting health policy and shaping funding priorities. Yet, little systematic attention has been paid to the equity implications of this litigation. Purpose: Based on a comprehensive study of litigation in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, India and South Africa, this presentation will trace the beginnings of health rights litigation; will review factors leading to judicial activism in health around the world; will stress the importance of differentiating contexts and kinds of interventions; and will discuss different methodologies for measuring impacts of litigation. Conclusions: Health rights litigation is extremely varied around the world. Factors that must be considered in assessing equity implications relate to the legal opportunity structure as well as other dimensions of the legal system, the organization of the health system, and the way in which the executive branch responds to judicial decisions.

Learning Areas:

Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the magnitude of health rights litigation around the world and its significance to health policy; Identify factors creating impetus for health rights litigation in certain countries; Explain equity implications of different types of health rights litigation (individual, collective) in different contexts

Keyword(s): Health Law, Public Health Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked at the intersection of health, human rights, and development for twenty years. I regularly advise public interest lawyers and NGOs on strategic litigation relating to health rights, and participate in regional workshops on health rights litigation. I also regularly lecture at institutions such as the World Bank and WHO in relation to legal enforcement of health rights.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.