Protecting Human Rights and Public Health in Global Pandemics
A Map of the Standards Applied by EU and US Courts
Dr Patrycja Dąbrowska-Kłosińska, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow, is the Principal Investigator on the project and she works under the mentorship of Professor Thérèse Murphy, Director of the Health & Human Rights Unit.
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THEMIS asks: How do judges resolve the conflict between individual human rights and public healthmeasures in global pandemics? It is an interdisciplinary research project linking risk regulation, public health and the human rights field. It investigates and appraises decisions of EU and US courts in order to develop the first comparative map of judicial standards of review in this challenging area and more generally to better understand the role of law in the context of infectious disease outbreaks.
Ebola patients in Kenema Government Hospital, Sierra Leone
Ebola, tuberculosis, HIV, SARS and Zika: fuelled by international mobility, risks of global pandemics are increasing. National and international public health actions and laws are one response to this, but they often treat health as a sharp security issue to limit the spread of diseases. In this way, risk assessment of threats often becomes politicised and individual rights are assumed to be obstacles to population health. In effect, medical knowledge is ignored, and law is used as a tool of fear instead of protection. As a result, potentially infected persons, patients and health workers become akin to terrorist suspects and their rights are/can be infringed. Possible violations concern the rights to life, personal integrity (eg, involuntary isolation), and respect for private and family life (eg disclosure of medical details), as well as specific patients’ rights (eg, forced treatment).
THEMIS reacts to these facts. Through extensive research into EU/US judicial approaches to lawful human rights limitations, scientific evidence, risk, and environmental/social factors, it will contribute to better understanding of how to prepare for, and respond to, the risks of global pandemics through the lens of a rights-based approach. To do this, it employs the pioneering ‘risk within rights’ framework (Murphy & Whitty) to avoid the standard framing, which presents risk to public health in opposition to human rights. It also utilizes a ‘Lawyers meet Doctors’ dissemination concept, facilitating inter-disciplinary and inter-sectoral impact and bridging audiences from diverse fields and sectors who usually work separately via two international workshops involving both academics and policy-experts as well as publications and presentations.
THEMIS aims to produce knowledge that will offer a vital reference for policy-making that prioritises fair pandemic preparedness to cross border health threats. In so doing it aspires to fill the scholarly and societal knowledge gap with respect to a current global challenge in line with the EU Health Strategies and the EU Third Health Programme (2014-2020).
|This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 746014.|
Themis Logo by Agnese Waligora, Teramo, Italy
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