President’s Ethics Initiative to discuss how human rights can inform healthcare

The issue of delivering healthcare fairly, using a human rights framework, will be discussed at NUI Galway on 6 February. The public event is part of the President’s Ethics Initiative and President Michael D. Higgins will open the event.

The event is being organised by NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights and its College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. Speakers and panel experts will panels of experts come from medicine, law, ethics, international development, health policy and activism backgrounds.

The panels and audience will discuss the links between health and human rights, and applications of human rights concepts and methods in addressing health challenges in Ireland and globally.

Professor Sofia Gruskin from the University of Southern California is a world-expert on the topic and will deliver the keynote address called ‘Health and Human Rights”. Her address will identify and discuss the complex interactions between health and human rights, with particular emphasis on the use of human rights norms and standards for public health thinking and practice.

Professor Michael O’Flaherty is Director of the Irish Centre of Human Rights, and co-organiser of the event: “This is a debate worth having, as the demand for access to healthcare grows worldwide. The outbreak of Ebola in parts of West Africa has thrown into sharp relief global human rights issues in terms of access to healthcare. In Ireland, debate in this area moves from access to medical cards to the need for ambulance services. Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is currently examining the system of emergency health to see if it protects and fulfils human rights, with a particular focus on the right to health.”

Dr Diarmuid O’Donovan, Senior Lecturer in Social and Preventive Medicine at NUI Galway, and co-organiser of the conference explained: “Public health and human rights are both concerned with improving the wellbeing of the population. The World Health Organisation describes how ‘the right to health means that states must generate conditions in which everyone can be as healthy as possible’. To make this possible we need ethical ways to address inequalities in access to, availability, affordability and quality of both health services and other services that impact on health: a rights based approach.”

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