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The Human Right to Health and Priority Setting in Healthcare

Winner of a Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects (CHIRP) Early Career Researcher grant, this project investigates a growing conflict, arising independently in a number of countries, between a legal recognition of the right of each citizen to health and the need to prioritise certain patient groups over others in the allocation of scarce healthcare resources.

The 'right to health' is a feature of several international instruments (including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) and the constitution of a number of countries.  However, it has been claimed that legislation along these lines has led to a distortion in the distribution of healthcare resources across populations, primarily by skewing the allocation of resources towards those who can afford to press their claim for specific treatments in constitutional courts.

To date, debate on this topic has tended to polarise opinion, with well-entrenched positions in the policy world. However, there is the opportunity for conceptual and policy analysis to bring out the complexity of this problem while simultaneously offering means to alleviate the current predicament. A successful project needs to identify the policy conflicts but also needs to address the issues in a way that uses philosophical tools to identify key arguments and assumptions. We have therefore opted for a mixed method approach, in which qualitative research methods will be used to uncover the scale and nature of the existing problem and philosophical analysis will be used to consider how far current tensions embody a deep, conceptual dilemma, and what interventions might allow countries to relieve it.

The project also fits perfectly into the existing Justice, Ethics & Human Rights theme of CHIRP. It will be well positioned to synergise further interdisciplinary collaborations across UCL - in particular with the Institute for Human Rights (of which Wilson is a Deputy Director, with special responsibility for the human right to health), the Grand Challenges of Global Health and Human Wellbeing, and the ongoing UCL-Lancet Commission on Health and Culture.

Page last modified on 12 aug 13 14:04