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RIGHT TO HEALTHCARE

Article submitted by kamalini, SASTRA Deemed to be University.


ABSTRACT

There is a famous proverb “Health is wealth”, thus the health plays a prime role in the lives of human beings. All the developed countries in the world has provided a proper healthcare to its citizens which makes them distinct and developed. Healthcare determines the life of the human beings and thus it in turn decides the development of the human being. It is important for the government to provide its citizens healthcare at affordable price and it should be made available to all the humans irrespective of any distinction. According to the Constitution of World Health Organization, health does not merely constitute absence of disease and health is considered as the complete state of social wellbeing.

This article tries to cover the right to healthcare and various provisions related to it the different statutes and this article also aims to cover how the right to healthcare is viewed in a global perspective.

INTRODUCTION

It is a right of every citizen to receive proper healthcare facilities and it is the duty of the government to provide the same. Though the right to healthcare is not directly mentioned in the Indian Constitution, an extended reading of Article 21 and various other provisions guarantees this right to Indian citizens. Healthcare is a vital aspect for the overall social and economic development, thus it is mandatory to provide these facilities to the citizens.

RIGHT TO HEALTHCARE IN VARIOUS INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

There are various international conventions, treaties and organization work for this noble cause and they ensure that the citizens who reside in the countries which has ratified the treaty gets proper healthcare facilities.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is one of the key document which deals with the aspect. According to Article 25(1),

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, and housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control”

This clause undoubtedly mentions that everyone is entitled to have a standard of living which is adequate to provide medical care and other basic necessities for the entire family and they are also entitled to right to security in the times of sickness thus ensuring quality medical care even when there is less means. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is a vital multilateral treaty which provides various economic rights, social rights and cultural rights in order to promote universal respect and to observing human rights and freedom.[1] According to Article 12(1) of the ICESCR,

“The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”.

This treaty provided prime importance to physical and mental health and guaranteed the right directly. There were also certain directions in the clause 2 of Article 12 of this treaty. According to clause 2 there has to steps taken for various purposes like,

  • Reduction of stillbirth rate;

  • Reduction of infant mortality;

  • Improving industrial hygiene to prevent diseases;

  • Improvement of environmental hygiene;

  • Prevention, treatment and controlling pandemics, epidemics and occupational diseases;

  • Creation of condition which ensures medical attention.

World Health Organization

World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the vital organizations which work for the development of healthcare across the world. The World Health Organization has a lot of principles set out in its preamble and their goal is to provide healthcare across the nations and it should be made accessible to everyone because if one country suffers from certain disease there are heavy chances it might affect the neighbouring thus damaging a lot of countries. According to the preamble of the constitution of the World Health Organization, “unequal development in different countries in the promotion of health and control of disease, especially communicable disease, is a common danger”, thus it is necessary to make healthcare facilities available to everyone in order to promote the global welfare. The Preamble also mentions that

“The extension to all peoples of the benefits of medical, psychological and related knowledge is essential to the fullest attainment of health. Informed opinion and active co-operation on the part of the public are of the utmost importance in the improvement of the health of the people. Governments have a responsibility for the health of their peoples which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures.”

Thus every country who is a part of World Health Organization has to abide by these principles and it is also the duty of the government to provide healthcare to the citizens according to the World Health Organization.


RIGHT TO HEALTHCARE IN INDIA

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states that

No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law, nor shall any person be denied equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”

Though there is no direct mention of right to healthcare under this Article , the extended reading of this Article will also include the right as the concept of life and personal liberty also includes the health of the persons.

Article 39(e) of the Indian Constitution states that

“The health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength”

This Article clearly provides the prime importance to health of men and women and it also states that their health is priority and they should not be forced to enter into any kind of work which will be a threat to their health.

Article 42 of the Indian Constitution states that

“The State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.”

This Article clearly mentions the importance of health of women especially during the times of pregnancy as it provides direction to the state to provide maternity relief. The provisions for just and humane conditions of work is to again ensure that the health of workers is not affected in any manner.

The Indian Judiciary has also mentioned the right to healthcare under various judgments. In a famous case, Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs Union Of India & Others[2], it stated that

“ This right to live with human dignity, enshrined in Article 21 derives its life breath from the Directive Principles of State Policy and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Article 39 and Article 41 and 42 and at the least, therefore, it must include protection of the health and strength of workers men and women” Thus providing importance to the right to healthcare.

In the case of State of Punjab and Ors vs Mohinder Singh Chawla, it stated that

“It is now settled law that right to health is an integral to right to life. Government has constitutional obligation to provide the health facilities.”[3]

In September 2019, a High-Level Group on the health sector constituted under the 15th Finance Commission had suggested that the right to health be declared a fundamental right. It also put forward a proposal to transfer the subject matter of health from the State List to the Concurrent List. The suggestion to state the right to health a fundamental right, if implemented, will reinforce people’s access to healthcare facilities. [4]


CONCLUSION

The right to healthcare is regarded as an important right in our country and it is been discussed by the judiciary in various cases. This right is not directly metioned as a fundamental right. It would be more advantageous to the people if it directly mentioned under the fundamental rights as people can get a solution using appropriate writs if their righ to health gets infringed. Our government is coming up with various schemes and building hospitals in order to ensure that proper healthcare is available to everyone but it is still a long road to success. It is the duty of citizens also not to exploit the the schemes provided by the government and to make use of the schemes to gain proper healthcare facilities. This issue has come to limelight again during this time of pandemic and it is necessary that the government takes proper steps to ensure healthcare at this time for the welfare of individuals and the community. This right to healthcare has gained importance in lots of countries and international organizations like WHO are working hard to ensure that everyone gets proper healthcare. Thus this right is an important and basic right which ensures the quality of human life.

[1] Preamble ICESER [2] A.I.R 1984, 802 [3] CIVIL APPEAL NOS.16980-81 OF 1996 [4] ORF Foundation “ Declaring righ to health as fundamental right” ,Nishant Sirohi

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