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Health as a human right

By: Terry Ahtziry Cardenas Banda, attorney, social activist, philanthropist, and law professor.

Within the framework of this edition, it is important to recognize health as a human right, which is stated in the Mexican constitution, as well as in other countries, and recognized worldwide through international treaties. The right to health is provided in article 4 of the Constitution, which establishes that “everyone has the right to health protection.”

The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) of Mexico defines human rights “as the set of prerogatives inherent to the nature of the person, which it’s effective realization results essential for the integral development of the individual living in a legally organized society. These rights, established in the Constitution and in the laws, must be recognized and guaranteed by the State”. In this sense, human rights are intended to contribute to the integral development of the person. Linking these with health we see that in different ways there can be a relationship between health and human rights, such as when violations or neglect of human rights lead to serious consequences for health.

For her part, the former High Commissioner of the United Nations, Mary Robinson, indicated that “the right to health does not mean the right to enjoy good health, nor does it mean that the governments of poor countries have to establish costly health services for those who they have no resources. It means that governments and public authorities must establish policies and action plans aimed at ensuring that all people have access to health care in the shortest possible time. Making this happen is the challenge that both the community in charge of protecting human rights and public health professionals have to face”.

These statements are clearly related to what is established in the Mexican constitution since it states, as mentioned above, that speaking of the right to health implies the protection of the health of every individual without any exception or distinction and the State is responsible for complying, guaranteeing that all its citizens have access to medical care, in order that they enjoy physical and mental well-being, so that they can contribute to the full exercise of their capacities.

The approach to health as a human right implies recognizing the characteristics of the groups to whom human rights are addressed, such as when we use human rights as a basis for healthy development. Similarly, the right to health implies rights and duties not only for States but also for health personnel and patients. Likewise, it is important to identify health as a human right when we evaluate the consequences of any health policy, program, or legislation for human rights and take measures in this regard, as well as when we take into account human rights in the conception, application, monitoring and evaluating all types of health-related policies and programs.

Therefore, the right to health must be available, accessible, acceptable, and of quality. For this reason, it is of great urgency, and especially in these times where the health of all is threatened, to evaluate our policies and programs related to health in order to assess whether there are really complying with the provisions of our Mexican constitution. Finally, it is important to emphasize that in the event that there are violations of this human right by the authorities or a medical person, those affected always have means of defense to protect them at both the national and international level.

Source: cndh.org.mx

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