Thursday, March 9, 2023
The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to billions around the world who have lost opportunities, loved ones, and even their lives to the disease. COVID has also created a new phenomenon that is difficult to predict for the long-term–long COVID. Long COVID, also known as post-COVID conditions, is a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems that people experience after being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. The most common symptoms are neurological, namely chronic fatigue (similar to the experience of people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome) as well as seemingly permanent loss of taste and smell. There are also heart and respiratory symptoms associated with long COVID. All these symptoms can result in someone having difficulty returning to work even after testing negative for COVID for quite some time. Some people with long COVID even have to quit their jobs and apply for disability.
This is the situation for a Canadian woman who recently made headlines for applying for Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying program (MAiD) citing long COVID as her reason. Tracey Thompson, a former professional chef in her 50s, has been rendered completely unable to work by her symptoms, and sees no other option than medically assisted death. After more than two years of lost income,, no foreseeable ability to work and an absence of support, Thompson said she expects to run out of money very soon. She said she was applying for the program exclusively for “financial consideration,” and that her only option is to “die slowly and painfully, or quickly.”
MAiD expanded its criteria in March 2022 to include people with disabilities or those suffering from pain even if they are not close to death and will begin accepting applicants citing mental health disorders as their rationale, further broadening the already broad criteria. United Nations experts pushed back on the original expansion in January 2021, arguing that extending assisted dying to people with non-terminal conditions contravenes Article 10 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “It is not beyond possibility that, if offered an expanded right as per Bill C-7, persons with disabilities may decide to end their lives because of broader social factors such as loneliness, social isolation, and lack of access to quality social services,” reads the letter sent by the United Nations experts to the government of Canada prior to the expansion.
Not only has Canada broadened its criteria for MAiD, but it has started to become more proactive in offering it to potential candidates. Disabled veteran and Paralympian Christine Gauthier, 52, testified before a Canadian veterans affairs committee that while she was attempting to gain government assistance in having a chair lift installed in her home that she received a letter from a veterans' affairs employee saying, “If you’re so desperate, madam, we can offer you MAiD, medical assistance in dying.” The Veterans Minister indicated that there had been five similar reports but was quick to assure the committee that a single employee was the culprit, and that individual was now suspended. Still, this begs the question: what kind of culture has been created around MAiD that an employee felt comfortable offering assisted suicide to a person asking for mobility assistance? A wheelchair lift is a permanent addition to someone’s house and someone who wants to die would not invest that kind of time, effort, and money into acquiring such a permanent fixture.
The U.S. is more conservative than Canada in terms of medically assisted death – it is legal only in a few states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia, and is permitted only under extremely strict parameters. If Canada approves Thompson’s request, though, this may galvanize people in the U.S. suffering with long COVID or chronic mental illness to do the same here, seeing no way out. The economic effects of long COVID may even be exacerbated by living in the U.S., particularly given the difference in the healthcare system between the U.S. and Canada. The combined burdens of losing healthcare coverage along with one’s job, stacking medical bills, difficulty in acquiring disability pensions, and skyrocketing housing costs may result in now-disabled COVID victims feeling as though they have no other choice. Also, the isolation that accompanies COVID may be contributing to suicidal ideation in long COVID victims, which should not be overlooked. The issue of long COVID has already been used in debate over an assisted suicide bill in Connecticut in 2021, with proponents arguing that assisted suicide is preferable to the isolated deaths that many who died of COVID experienced. Though that bill did not pass at the time, a revised version has made it out of the Connecticut legislature’s Public Health Committee and to the public hearing stage as of March 2023.
The UN Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights states: “Persons living in poverty must be recognized and treated as free and autonomous agents. All policies relevant to poverty must be aimed at empowering persons living in poverty. They must be based on the recognition of those persons’ right to make their own decisions and respect their capacity to fulfill their own potential, their sense of dignity, and their right to participate in decisions affecting their lives.” The expansion of medically assisted death in Canada only pits impoverished people’s pain and suffering with economic needs, while giving them no support or methods by which their lives might improve. It is ableist, classist, and reminiscent of eugenics policies (especially if government officials continue to offer it unprovoked to disabled citizens merely seeking assistance) and should not become the model for medically assisted death going forward. Instead, governments should provide further economic and social assistance to disabled citizens to ensure that they are not forced into poverty by their medical circumstances. If disabled individuals are fully empowered in this way, their quality of life may improve such that medically assisted suicide is no longer their only option, and they can live fulfilling, successful lives, as is every human being’s right.
Tuesday, August 23, 2022
New Article: Access to a Doctor, Access to Justice? An Empirical Study on the Impact of Forensic Medical Examinations in Preventing Deportations
Nermeen S. Arastu, Access to a Doctor, Access to Justice? An Empirical Study on the Impact of Forensic Medical Examinations in Preventing Deportations, 35 Harvard H.R.J. (2022). Abstract below.
Year after year, the United States has remained the world’s largest recipient of humanitarian-based immigration applications. Those seeking protection here must navigate a backlogged and increasingly restrictive system, oftentimes without access to counsel. Most individuals applying for humanitarian relief must prove that they survived egregious past harms or fear future harms if the United States were to deport them. In turn, immigration judges and Department of Homeland Security adjudicators act as gatekeepers, making daily decisions about whose pain and suffering is devastating enough to justify granting them status in the United States. For immigrants privileged enough to gain access to them, forensic medical evaluators can play a crucial role in immigration outcomes by documenting narratives of harm, bolstering credibility, and persuading adjudicators to grant relief. However, despite the exponential growth in medical-legal collaborations and requests for forensic medical evaluations in support of immigrants, there is little data about if and how forensic medical evidence impacts adjudicator decision making. The empirical study discussed in this Article—the largest-of-its-kind quantitative study of over 2,500 cases in which Physicians for Human Rights (“PHR”) facilitated medical evaluations on behalf of immigrants—found that 81.6% of individuals who received a forensic medical evaluation between 2008 and 2018 experienced some form of a positive immigration outcome. In comparison, immigration adjudictors only granted relief to asylum seekers an estimated 42.4% of the time overall during this same period. The significant impact of forensic medical evaluations in contributing to a favorable immigration outcome raises questions about whether adjudicators are holding immigrants to overly-stringent evidentiary standards by constructively creating norms that require immigrants to gain access to health professionals with the requisite training to evaluate them. To the extent such evaluations become essential to the successful outcome of the legal case, access to a medical evaluator may indeed translate into access to justice.
Tuesday, July 19, 2022
New Article: Professional Indifference?: How One Case Improves Protection for Immigrant Children in United States Detention Centers
Caitlin Fernandez Zamora, Professional Indifference?: How One Case Improves Protection for Immigrant Children in United States Detention Centers, 20 Nw. J. Hum. Rts. 239 (2022). Abstract below.
This Article discusses the case Doe 4 ex rel. Lopez v. Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center Commission. This case was a class action brought by unaccompanied immigrant children against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center Commission under § 1983 protection for adequate medical care. The plaintiff class alleged that, among other things, the Commission failed to (i) provide adequate mental health care due to punitive practices; and (ii) implement trauma-informed care. The plaintiffs were immigrant children who fled their native countries due to harrowing circumstances, many of whom struggled with severe mental illness. The district court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment regarding the mental health care claim, which the plaintiffs appealed. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit considered which standard should be applied to analyzing a claim regarding the detention center’s level of mental health care. This Article explores the approach and impact of Doe 4, as a case of first impression for the Fourth Circuit and effectively for all circuits with regard to this class of immigrant children. Specifically, this Article discusses whether the majority opinion followed precedent or broke away from it in a way that properly embodies federal law and Constitutional guarantees. This Article also discusses the role of international law in United States courts, particularly related to protections for migrants and children. The Article ultimately concludes that the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Doe 4 was correct and explains why and how it should be further adopted and adapted by other federal courts, to promote an end to the professional indifference that the United States judicial system has normalized with regard to care for juveniles in detention centers.
Monday, April 25, 2022
On April 28, 2022, from 12:45 – 2:10 PM ET, the Northeastern Law Center for Health Policy and Law and the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) will host an online event titled “Data bias in health research: towards a comprehensive human rights framework” with speaker Katharina Ó Cathaoir, Associate Professor in Law, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law.
Politically and in scientific communities, there is increasing recognition that medicine can be biased. One cause is data gaps; with less clinical research on women, children, certain ethnic groups and older people, the medications and treatments offered sometimes do not achieve the intended clinical result because they have not been tested on a representative group. There is a risk that such biases and data gaps will be amplified through data driven medicine if artificial intelligence replicates existing biases. The talk will evaluate how the EU legal framework governing processing of health data accounts for the need to prevent and remediate biases focused on collection and use of health data for scientific research purposes using a human rights lens.
Join the event by clicking here (no pre-registration required): https://northeastern.zoom.us/j/93295781956
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
After two bills that would have banned gender-affirming care for trans youth in Texas did not pass the state’s legislature last year, Texas politicians took the matter into their own hands. Governor Greg Abbott (R), State Representative Matt Krause (R), and Attorney General Ken Paxton are plowing ahead and attempting to label gender-affirming care as child abuse under chapter 261 of the Texas Family Code.
In a February 18 opinion issued at the request of Representative Krause, Attorney General Paxton stated that puberty-blockers and hormone replacement therapy are not medically beneficial and can constitute child abuse under Texas law. In addition, he falsely equated gender-affirming care and non-consensual sterilization, claiming that these treatments deprive children of their fundamental right to procreate.
In response to Attorney General Paxton’s opinion, Governor Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to open child abuse investigations into the parents of children who are “subjected to these abusive gender-transitioning procedures.” He also ordered the investigation of medical facilities known to provide this care. Governor Abbott’s order has been condemned by organizations including The Texas Pediatric Society, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and The National Association of Social Workers.
Neither Attorney General Paxton’s opinion nor Governor Abbott’s order are legally binding, and five Texas District Attorneys have publicly stated they will not enforce the order. While the opinion and order carry no legal weight, they increase already rampant transphobia and create more challenges for Texas youth who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Furthermore, the Attorney General and Governor’s actions have created panic among young people in Texas, who fear they will be separated from their loving and supportive families by the DFPS and lose access to the care they need from their doctors.
The ACLU has filed a law suit challenging Governor Abbott’s order to the DFPS. The plaintiffs include Mary Doe, a minor who has been undergoing gender-affirming care, her mother and father, and Dr. Megan Mooney, a psychologist whose clients include a number of trans youth in Texas. Mary Doe’s mother is employed by the DFPS and has been placed on leave while the family is investigated by her employer because of her daughter’s ongoing care. The ACLU argues that Governor Abbott’s order creates a Catch-22 for Dr. Mooney and others in her position. Under the Governor’s order, healthcare providers would face severe penalties for failing to report clients who come to them for gender-affirming care but stopping care and reporting these clients would violate ethical and professional obligations to cause no harm.
The ACLU’s petition also highlights the chilling effect of the Governor’s order. Parents feel unsafe sending their children to school or to the doctor’s office because they would encounter mandatory reporters, who are obligated to report “child abuse.” Some doctors have ceased prescribing gender-affirming care for fear of the professional and criminal consequences. Texas Children’s Hospital, the nation’s largest pediatric hospital, has stopped providing gender-affirming care in response to the order.
On March 2, a Travis County judge granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) that enjoins the state from continuing the child abuse investigation of the Doe family, citing the irreparable harm that the investigation would cause the family. The TRO also enjoins the state from taking any action against Dr. Mooney. Attorney General Paxton promptly appealed the decision.
The Governor’s stated intention of protecting young Texans is intellectually dishonest. He desires to weaponize the DFPS and use it as a tool to break up families and send trans children into foster care, where their mental and physical health are virtually guaranteed to suffer. He further desires to coerce doctors into acting against their own ethical obligations. The Governor is using his position of power to promote a transphobic agenda that is traumatizing trans youth in his state.
Members of the cis-gendered male political elite seek to use their platforms to enshrine patriarchal norms into the legal system in order to protect their own privilege. A privilege that is seemingly so fragile that their enemy of choice is children.
Decisions about medically necessary and often life-saving gender-affirming care must be left to families and their doctors. LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations in Texas, which will be working hard in the coming weeks to protect this principle, could use your support. The status of transgender individuals and the law varies state to state and issues such as access to gender-affirming care have become battle grounds in several states, including Texas and Arkansas.
Trans kids matter.
Sunday, January 16, 2022
Lisa Cosgrove and Allen F. Shaughnessy, Mental Health as a Basic Human Right and the Interference of Commercialized Science, Health and Human Rights Journal (2020), https://cdn1.sph.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/2469/2020/06/Cosgrove.pdf. Abstract pasted below.
Although there is consensus that a rights-based approach to mental health is needed, there is disagreement about how best to conceptualize and execute it. The dominance of the medical model and industry’s influence on psychiatry has led to an over-emphasis on intra-individual solutions, namely increasing individuals’ access to biomedical treatments, with a resultant under-appreciation for the social and psychosocial determinants of health and the need for population-based health promotion. This paper argues that a robust rights-based approach to mental health is needed in order to overcome the effects of commercial interests on the mental health field. We show how commercialized science—the use of science primarily to meet industry needs—deflects attention away from the sociopolitical determinants of health, and we offer solutions for reform.
Sunday, August 15, 2021
New Article: The Intellectual Property Turn in Global Health: From a Property to a Human Rights View of Health
Laura G. Pedraza-Fariña, The Intellectual Property Turn in Global Health: From a Property to a Human Rights View of Health, 36 Osiris 241 (2021), Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 21-20. Abstract below.
International intellectual property (IP) law for pharmaceuticals has fundamentally shifted in the twenty-first century from a property-centric to a human rights view. Scholars tend to explain this transformation in the context of both the power struggle between developing and developed countries, and the influence of a social movement that criticized IP rights as hindering access to essential medicines. Yet, these explanations leave out the central role of two international organizations, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and particularly their permanent staffs, whose boundary disputes have shaped international IP law at the intersection of trade and global health. Bringing into conversation historical and legal literatures on global health and IP, this article traces how a human rights perspective on IP emerged as a strategy to reconcile the WHO staff’s sociomedical views of health with an increasingly dominant set of global IP rules. It shows how the WHO staff used the language of economics—an analytical frame favored by the WTO—to advance a then unorthodox economic understanding of IP as a type of governmental regulation. This allowed the WHO to argue that states should enjoy regulatory autonomy to curtail IP rights in order to meet broader state objectives, such as human rights protection. Paradoxically, despite their divergent views on the nature of IP, both WTO and WHO engagement with it heralded the emergence of a new technocratic view of global health that focuses on patentable medicines and technologies, and that has ultimately turned away from the WHO’s sociomedical roots.
Monday, July 5, 2021
By Martha F. Davis, Co-Editor
Save the date for a webinar on July 14, 2021, at 10:00-11:30am Eastern US/16:00-17:30pm Central European, on COVID-19 vaccine access through a human rights lens, featuring UN Special Rapporteur Tlaleng Mofokeng, with Amanda Lyons (U Minn), Steven Jensen (Danish Institute), Brook Baker (Northeastern Law), and Morten Kjareum (RWI). Register for the webinar using this link: https://rwi.lu.se/events/covid-19-vaccines-for-the-few-how-to-ensure-the-right-to-health-for-all/.
The webinar marks the publication of the hot-off-the-presses book COVID-19 and Human Rights (Routledge): https://www.routledge.com/COVID-19-and-Human-Rights/Kjaerum-Davis-Lyons/p/book/9780367688035. Topics addressed in the book include racial justice, land rights, access to medicines, the SDGs, rights of disabled persons, and many others, with a must-read introduction by Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty.
Monday, May 10, 2021
Claudio Grossman, Pandemics and International Law: The Need for International Action, Human Rights Brief, Vol. 24, Iss. 3, Art. 2 (2021). Excerpt below.
"This Article argues that, due to the experience of COVID-19, it is important that the ILC of the United Nations considers the adoption of a normative instrument whose purpose would be the regulation of pandemics – before, during, and after they occur. There is a compelling need to act, stressing prevention and common reaction by the international community when these scourges occur, and the existing normative framework has shown its incapacity to organize the type of global mobilization that pandemics require. This Article will first provide a brief background into relevant topics, and then it will summarize key issues noted during the November 18 conference. Lastly, it will conclude by providing a recommendation for further action."
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Please Join the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility at The New School, the Migration and Human Rights Program at Cornell Law School, and the Program on Forced Migration and Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, for a symposium on May 18-20th, 2021, revisiting the 14 Principles of Protection for Migrants, Refugees and Other Displaced Persons.
This symposium marks the one year anniversary of the publication of the 14 Principles and will consist of a series of 45-minute sessions will explore how migrants, including refugees, have been particularly impacted by the pandemic and the new and emerging ways in which the human rights of these populations are likely to be challenged going forward.
Monday, May 3, 2021
Oona Hathway et al., The COVID-19 Pandemic and International Law, Cornell International Law Journal, Vol. 54, No. 2 (2021). Abstract below.
How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect States’ obligations under international law? This is a question of not just academic interest but real importance for people’s lives. After all, whether States abide by international law—and whether international law is fit for purpose—is vitally important for everyone from refugees exposed to the virus in unsanitary detention centers to national leaders fighting disinformation campaigns and safeguarding vaccine supply chains. International law has been central to the world’s response to the pandemic from the start—even if the participants did not always realize it. International law, after all, required States to take certain actions to detect and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Some governments responded quickly and effectively, significantly reducing the impact on their populations, but many others were far less successful. Many have made matters worse by responding to the virus in ways that exacerbated the toll on the most vulnerable populations, violating their international law obligations in the process. Moreover, some States have used the pandemic as an excuse for delaying elections or for denying arrested persons adequate legal representation. This Article examines the many ways in which COVID-19 is straining the rules and norms of international law. It considers the five main bodies of international law implicated by the pandemic: international humanitarian law, international human rights law, immigration and refugee law, international cyber law, and the rules and regulations of the World Health Organization. It outlines the obligations each body of law impose on States, and how those obligations apply during the current pandemic. It concludes with several proposals for reform to the international legal system so that the world can prepare to more effectively address the next inevitable pandemic.
Sunday, April 4, 2021
On April 12 and 16, 2021, the University of Miami School of Law International and Graduate Law Programs and Human Rights Clinic, in collaboration with the Human Rights Society, Health Law Association, and University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review —will examine the impact of COVID-19 on international law through a virtual symposium. Speakers include:
- Claudio Grossman, Professor of Law, Dean Emeritus, Raymond I. Geraldson Scholar for International and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law; Member, UN International Law Commission
- Leilani Farha, former UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing; Global Director, The Shift
- Charles C. Jalloh, Professor of Law, Florida International University College of Law; Member, UN International Law Commission
- Antonia Urrejola Noguera, President, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
- Nilüfer Oral, Law Faculty, Istanbul Bilgi University; Member, UN International Law Commission
To register and for more information please visit: https://www.law.miami.edu/academics/clinics/human-rights-clinic/international-law-covid19-symposium
Sunday, March 14, 2021
By Khala Turner, 2L at St. Louis University School of Law
Amongst a unification of chaos and denial, society has been able to parse through the racial disparities that should be considered a violation of basic human rights in the aftermath of COVID-19. Human rights that are noted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as the rights to life, liberty and security of person; just and favorable conditions to work; and a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing. These human rights should not only be protected during COVID-19, but also should have been well established protections beforehand. As the number of people in Black communities across the globe who are diagnosed with COVID-19 continues to rise, the acts of disparity towards people of African descents grew rapidly. The ease and comfort of disparate treatment shows that racial inequity has unsuccessfully been challenged.
The risks for contracting COVID for racial and ethnic minority groups are higher due to factors such as occupation, housing, and discrimination as listed by the CDC. Growing and disproportionate unemployment rates for some racial and ethnic minority groups due to COVID-19 may lead to greater risk of eviction and homelessness, as well. When studies show disparities among racial and ethnic minority groups in COVID-19 testing, government officials and institutions should take responsibility to ensure no possible additional disparate treatment will occur.
Racial and ethnic minorities should be concerned with the current approach to vaccine testing as well, considering historical events. During the search for medical knowledge, minorities have been historically exploited to get answers and used as Guinea pigs for testing purposes repeatedly. Consider the cases of Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. Research on Lacks’ cells led to the development of the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization. Unfortunately Lacks never knew that her cells were taken for research purposes and her family wasn’t informed until twenty-five years after her death. Similarly, in the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, there was no evidence that researchers informed the subjects of the study or its real purpose. The men were misled and not been given all of the facts required to provide informed consent. Throughout these experiments when consent and transparency were disconnected from subjects, authorities have displayed that all citizens do not have a right to life, liberty and security of person when medical research is involved.
Comparable to HeLa Cells and the Tuskegee Experiment research, COVID-19 has already exploited minority communities by allowing employees to expose themselves by performing essential work and destroying the right to a just and favorable condition to work. In the midst of COVID-19, authorities have released scarce means of financial support; institutions have exposed their foundational contributions to systemic racism as they do not place moratoriums on expenses and plan to send children back to educational facilities and as time progresses, many more issues that highlight racial disparities continue to unravel. While unemployment rates continue to rise, those that are forced to work to ensure that they are not evicted, means for electricity or water are not eliminated and money for food is constant then the exploitation begins to increase.
As minority communities are exploited, lives are lost, families are broken, and diseases run rampant causing more harm than good, and we must consider the generational issues that are the result of future “beneficial” medical research. Black communities have cried for help when it comes to medical treatment due to authorities dismantling trust with the lack of transparency. While looking for a COVID-19 vaccine, there should have been a shift whereas the right to life, liberty and security of person are protected with consent and transparency. The best method to protect minority and low-income communities is to allow community members similar opportunities to actively participate in medical facilities. A portion of the underrepresentation problem stems from the under-supply of minority students from public schools who are academically prepared to succeed as undergraduates and thus are able to apply successfully to medical schools.
The fundamental human rights that need protection are those that are feared by many, such as losing their adequate living standards for health and wellbeing or the possibility of being incarcerated due to truancy laws being broken by not sending their children to mandatory schooling. The fear of survival in communities where many are living paycheck to paycheck should not outweigh the fear of contracting a life-threatening disease that destroys communities much faster due to underlying systemic racist conditions. These human rights efforts should no longer begin when disparate deaths in minority communities and exposure to the virus continue to rise but should begin immediately. Authorities should be willing to review statistics and take proactive steps to ensure that exposure is low, transparency is available, and financial resources are provided.
To eliminate fears and protect society, months ago, governments should have immediately re-implemented mandatory lockdowns, expanded federal and state support for the unemployed to cover living expenses, and eliminated all non-essential travel, business and extracurricular activities. As we have seen in the last few weeks, the Biden Administration has taken small steps towards victory by passing the American Rescue Plan Act. These implementations are all important to the Black family, the minority and low-income communities. In the interim, authorities must work to ensure that healthcare costs, medical needs in all states and expenses related to alleviate COVID-19 through vaccination plans in medical facilitates are affordable or free. The initial perception behind the COVID-19 vaccination was to ensure minority communities were given the opportunity to receive the vaccine as the media questioned the lack of excitement from Black communities to sign up for it. Sadly, the socioeconomic disparities continue across the country as wealthier communities are gaining access to opportunities to vaccinate quicker than others. As people continue to travel from city to city to gain access to the vaccine, the hopes for the Biden Administration’s plan to have every consenting adult vaccinated by May 1st are high. It is imperative that regulations are set in place to guide the actions of all State governments and vaccine locations.
In short, it is now time to continue overseeing actions and implement laws that will protect the human rights of minority communities such as being free from unfair treatment in housing and medical opportunities, and discrimination in education as children return to school. While these laws and policies may be perceived as infringing upon some people’s rights, this has never been the crux of the argument when infringing upon the rights of minorities or any low-income persons. If there is any time to continue to see a positive change in society, now is the time.
Monday, January 6, 2020
An unusual monument to human rights sits in a corner of the Boston Public Garden in downtown Boston.
The 40-foot-tall Ether Monument,installed in 1868, is the oldest monument in the garden. It commemorates the first use of ether as an anesthetic, a pivotal moment in medical history. A few blocks away from the monument, across the Boston Common and downhill toward the Boston harbor, the first public demonstration of ether anesthesia was conducted in the Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846. Boston dentist William Thomas Green Morton administered the ether, and doctor John Collins Warren then removed a tumor from an unconscious patient.
The Ether Monument depicts this breakthrough through the imagery of two connected figures: the Good Samaritan, holding in his arms an injured stranger he met on the road.
This past human rights day, December 2019, the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists invited its members to submit essays considering the question: Is anesthesia a human right?
The doctors who responded linked anesthesia not only to the human right to health but also to human dignity.
One doctor working in India wrote: "If healthcare is a human right does that mean anesthesia for surgery is also a human right?" She concluded that "[a]ll of us have the right to life, liberty, and security but we also have the right to safe surgery which is only possible with the provision of safe anesthesia." Another physician, practicing in Burkina Faso, observed that "[a]naesthesia makes it possible to eliminate pain, respect the patient’s dignity and facilitate adequate care."
In the U.S. today, many of us are accustomed to living with little or no pain, and if we do experience pain, we expect it to be addressed. Pain-relieving substances of all kinds are readily available, and medical personnel are often eager to help patients by offering prescriptions. Too much pain relief can be a bad thing if it's not needed, or if it has addictive qualities. But the Ether Monument reminds us how debilitating pain can be, what a momentous event it was when the pain-relieving properties of ether were successfully tested, and how lucky those of us with adequate health care are to have access to the human right to pain relief.
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
This week celebrated World Aids Day. We celebrate that for many HIV/AIDS is a chronic condition that will not result in death from the condition. And we celebrate the latest development that an Indian company has developed a strawberry flavored medicine that will provide infants with palatable, life-saving medication at the cost of only $1.00 per day.
But very real ongoing human costs of AIDS/HIV exist. Approximately 80,000 babies and toddlers die of AIDS yearly and 160,000 children are born with AIDS each year. 37.9 million people worldwide live with HIV or AIDS. 1.1 million of that number live in the United States.
We are fortunate that mortality rates are low and getting lower in the United States, particularly when compared with Africa. But we need to acknowledge the ongoing struggles of those living with HIV/AIDS. Approximately 37,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS diagnosed in 2018 in the US. The increase in opioid use is a particular source of new infections among younger people. AIDS Alabama has announced a planned project that will provide homeless youth with safe shelter in Birmingham. The residence will provide transitional housing, as well. Safe housing will be a powerful tool against opioid use and the spread of AIDS. Some living with HIV have no security of regular medical interventions. Rural America is experiencing an increase in diagnoses, as well, but it is there that helpful resources are fewest.
Stigma still exists for those living with HIV/AIDS and discrimination reveals itself in employment, housing and other areas that impact daily living. And criminalization of HIV/AIDS continues in many states. So while medical advances have improved the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS, in the US we must be mindful of the stressors that impact the day to lives of those living with HIV/AIDS.
We optimistically head toward the day where the conditions will be eliminated. AIDS United projects 2050 as the year for reaching that goal. Until that day we honor those who live with repercussions from discrimination that attaches to an HIV or AIDS diagnosis.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
December 1st was world AIDS Day.
Over 37,000 people in the US are newly diagnosed with HIV each year. 37 million people world wide are living with HIV or AIDS. The opiod crisis has increased the number of new transmissions. Women in abusive relationships are at increased risk for HIV. Yet many perceive the problem as no longer a crisis in the US because of the effectiveness of treatment (Art). But not everyone has access to treatment. Transportation issues remain a huge barrier to treatment, particularly in rural areas. The gutting of the affordable care act exacerbates the problem. A high percentage of men who have sex with men die from HIV/AIDS.
Those living with HIV experience workplace and housing discrimination, typically following the disclosure of private medical information.
And criminally, those living with HIV are at risk for prosecution if they have sex without disclosing their medical condition to the partner, despite the fact that taking ART as prescribed virtually eliminates any risk of transmission. Arrests and prosecutions under these criminal disclosure statues are disproportionately against people of color.
While the public impression is that HIV and AIDS is no longer a critical problem, those living with HIV and AIDS tell very different stories. For additional information on living with HIV here are just a few sources of information: Positive Women's Network; Center for Disease Control; and AIDS United.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
The assault on the press continues. Last week we posted about a reporter in North Carolina who was arrested after persistently asking questions about health care to Health Secretary Tom Price.
Health care seems to be a sensitive topic. On Wednesday, a Guardian reporter was body slammed by a Montana congressional candidate on the eve of the election. Ben Jacobs reported that having asked the candidate about the Congressional Budget Office's estimates of over twenty million people who would lack health insurance under Trumpcare, candidate Greg Gianforte slammed the reporter to the floor, breaking his glasses and injuring one of the reporter's elbows.
The lid is off of civil behavior. The press, those charged with the responsibility to seek truth, are one of the first public casualties. The Sheriff's office is investigating. The special election is happening now.
Warning: Reporting can be dangerous to your health.
UPDATE: On election morning Mr. Gianforte was charged with assault. Fox News reporters corroborated Mr. Jacob's account of events.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
The Yogyakarta Principles for eliminating sexual identity and gender discrimination were written in 2006. In 2010, an Activists Guide to the principles was published. The target audience for the guide is LBGTQ activists, with a secondary audience being academics and others interested in human rights implementation. The principles themselves are directed toward the state, and in particular those creating and implementing policy.
Recently a global conference was held in Bangkok to discuss updating the principles by addressing any existing gaps.
Stephen Leonelli of the Men Who Have Sex with Men Global Forum, seeks to bring more awareness of HIV to the principles. At present, there are only two references to HIV contained in the principles. Leonelli, who was a representative at the Bangkok meeting, has written a critique of the principles from the perspective of what changes might be made in order to appropriately address HIV/AIDS.
One of Leonelli's goals is to bring awareness to the collateral consequences of having HIV. Often acknowledged are the public health concerns HIV raises. But less appreciated are the impacts of criminalization, discrimination, violence and stigma. To read more on Leonelli's suggestions for advancing HIV awareness through the Yogyakarta Principles, click here.
The revisions are scheduled to be completed this fall.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Flint Michigan is undergoing an outbreak of infectious disease. Shigellosis is a contagious disease that causes fever, stomach pain and diarrhea. Since the city of Flint and the state of Michigan began sending lead contaminated brown water through the city water pipes, the residents have taken measures to avoid using local water.
Clean water has been distributed at various points for city residents. Along with the water, residents were given "baby wipes". While the wipes have the ability to remove dirt, chlorinated water used with traditional soaps are more effective in eliminating harmful bacteria. The inability of residents to access clean municipal water is seen as the source of the infectious illness. But Flint residents, understandably, do not trust the water being provided by the city. While many residents have filters on their faucets and showers, hot water reduces the life of the filters. The residents' ability to afford frequent filter replacement is limited.
This is the second outbreak of infectious disease experienced in Flint. Two years ago, the residents saw an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.
The human right to clean water, the most essential ingredient in human survival, remains a low priority in many US cities, with Flint evidencing the consequences.
Monday, July 18, 2016
The connection between domestic violence and mass public killings has not been overlooked. The New York Times published an article on the topic which opened the conversation. While the article could be read to say that the link is casual and not correlative, the connection is supported by FBI data that 57% of mass killings involved a current or former intimate partner or other family member.
Nashville saw a near elimination of domestic violence murders, when, under the leadership of Officer Mark Wynn, every domestic violence call was addressed through a SWAT team response. From the bottom up, our culture needs to shift its focus to take domestic violence as seriously Nashville did. But that is not our culture. For example, not every state requires the surrender of firearms when a restraining order enters against a defendant. Yet federal law makes it a crime for someone subject to a restraining order to be in possession of firearms. When federal gun laws go unenforced, the state is empowering violent men to do further harm. Violence prevention is not a valued path in the U.S.
The failure of civil society to aggressively and effectively address intimate partner violence does, not coincidentally, lead to broader societal violence. Failure to curb gender violence empowers those who are violent. Violent men often hate women, gays, those of different races and others who do not match their limited sex and identity characteristics. Confusion over what it means to be a "man" is a common thread for those who harm both women and those who are gender different. Think Orlando. Religion can be the disguise these men use to execute their hate. Think ISIS and its culture of sexual violence.
As a culture we do very little to intervene when we see concerning behaviors developing in our young men. Ending violence is directly related to how we raise our boys. Traumatized boys are at risk of becoming violent men. Traumatized men who are not given the medical, psycho-therapeutic and other supports they need become dangerous to themselves and many others. Think police killings. We need to rethink our notions of privacy when it comes to children. What is now considered intrusive will later be fundamental as preventative.
What if we organized the restorative and therapeutic equivalent of a SWAT team? Imagine how effective intervention might be if children were diverted from thoughts and conditions that lead to violence by a team of loving, skilled professionals and community members focused only on providing the specific needs of an at-risk child and the child's caregivers. This may sound Utopian, but until we alter our present system of crisis only intervention for children, we should expect violence to continue in more and more dangerous forms.