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In the area of health there are a number of rights that should be respected. At the centre is the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which is protected by a number of treaties.

Civil servants working on health-related issues should aim to facilitate this right by providing the conditions in which people can lead a healthy life. The areas which may affect individuals’ health are broad ranging and can include:

  • Health goods, facilities and services

  • Planning business, environment or road projects

  • Ensuring healthy working conditions

  • Policies that may impact individuals’ health

  • Whenever a health issue risks or results in an individual’s death, the right to life is engaged. 

The well-being of an individual includes the physical and psychological integrity of the person, which is protected by the right to private and family life. In serious cases of abuse and mistreatment the right to freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment can be engaged. For example when an individual in care is treated without respect for their dignity. 

It is also engaged through the refusal to provide abortions to women and girls who are pregnant as a result of incest or rape, or who are carrying a foetus with a serious malformation. 


Rights Engaged

Right to health
  • ESC, Art 11
  • ICESCR, Art 12
  • UNCEDAW, Art 12
  • UNCRPD, Art 25
  • UNCRC, Art 24

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Right to private and family life
  • ECHR/HRA, Art 8
  • ICCPR, Art 17
  • UNCRPD, Arts 22, 23, 31
  • UNCRC, Art 16

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Right to life
  • ECHR/HRA, Art 2
  • ECHR, Prot 13 Art 1
  • ICCPR, Art 6
  • UNCRPD, Art 10

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Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • ECHR/HRA, Art 3
  • ICCPR, Art 7
  • UNCRPD, Art 15
  • UNCRC, Art 37

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Right to Rehabilitation
  • UNCRPD, Art 26
Right to healthy working conditions
  • ESC, Art 3
  • ICESCR, Art 7
  • UNCEDAW, Art 11
  • UNCRPD, Art 27