The Judiciary and the Right to Health

An International Conference

Thu, 03/25/2010 to Fri, 03/26/2010
300 Wallace Hall, see below for details
Event Category: 
Co-sponsored Event

In several countries around the world, the judiciary is beginning to play a rather surprising central role in the administration of public health. Decisions and directives over treatment access—once the sole domain of executives and legislators—are now routinely advanced by judges. While the judiciary has long been involved in certain aspects of public health such as quarantine, institutionalization of the mentally ill, constitutionality of mandatory vaccinations or of prisoner health, for example, a more proactive role may be emerging. In turn, citizens are enjoying new access to health resources, and new patterns of governance are emerging. This international conference will investigate the emerging and varied role of the judiciary in treatment access and public health in comparative perspective, with a particular focus on Brazil, South Africa, India and the United States. The conference will shed light on themes relevant to social scientists, legal scholars, public health scholars, as well as policy actors from a range of perspectives.  


March 25, 2010
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
300 Wallace Hall

Keynote Addresses:

  • Gilmar Mendes, Chief Justice of the Brazilian Supreme Court
  • Anand Grover, The United Nations Human Right Council and Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS in India
  • Discussant: Christina Paxson, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs of Princeton University

March 26, 2010
300 Wallace Hall

Opening Remarks (8:30 AM – 9:15 AM)

  • João Biehl, Princeton University
    Biehl will present the results of a database to track patient claims for medicines through the judiciary in Brazil
  • Evan Lieberman, Princeton University
    Lieberman will present data on how municipal councilors view the role of courts in addressing public health threats in South Africa

Panel 1: Access to Medicines (9:00 AM – 10:30 AM)

  • Ingo Sarlet, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Porto Alegre, Brazil
  • Adila Hassim, AIDS Law Project, South Africa
  • Holger Hestermeyer, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law
  • Discussant: Adriana Petryna, University of Pennsylvania

Description:  Judicial efforts to realize the right to health are dominated by concerns over pharmaceuticals, who can access them, and how. The participants will discuss rights-based access to medicines through judiciaries in a comparative framework. They will present a critical overview of how different strategies, judicial structures, and legal arguments have expanded or failed to expand access to the right to health generally and to medicines specifically.

Panel 2: Vulnerable Populations and the Adjudication of Rights (11:00 AM - 12:30 PM)

  • Alicia Ely Yamin, Harvard University
  • Joseph Amon, Human Rights Watch
  • Scott Burris, Temple University
  • Discussant: Didier Fassin, School of Social Science of the Institute for Advanced Study

Description:  This panel explores how the rights of women, children, and minorities rights as they relate to vulnerability to disease are being adjudicated as ambitious transnational health efforts bring more and more expensive medical technologies to resource-poor local contexts. The participants will discuss how, amid technology-centered initiatives, the advocacy on the right to health can and has been used to secure greater access to basic health resources (such as access to information, clean water, proper nutrition, adequate housing and a robust education).

Panel 3: The Judiciary and Health Systems (2:00 PM – 3:30 PM)

  • Uwe Reinhard, Princeton University
  • Ulrich Becker, Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Social Law
  • Janet Love, Legal Resources Centre, South Africa
  • Discussant: Anna Marie Smith, Cornell University

Description: Judicial involvements in the access to health raise difficult questions concerning authority, expertise, and sustainability. What responsibilities does the judiciary have in relation to administrative efforts to improve individual patient outcomes and public health conditions? How can the judiciary contribute to the reform of health systems and progressive realization of the right to health? The participants will discuss the material manifestation of these complex questions in particular locales and in light of international law.

Review of Discussion and Concluding Remarks (4:00 PM – 4:30 PM)

Co-sponsored by the Program in Latin American Studies, Department of Anthropology, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton AIDS Initiative, Health Grand Challenges, and the Ford Foundation.