Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction


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Contributions from the International Law Department of the University of Groningen to the 6th Conference of the European Association of Health Law

By Yi Zhang, University of Groningenyi.zhang@rug.nl   

On 28 – 29 September 2017, Professor Brigit Toebes, Dr. Marie Elske Gispen and Yi Zhang participated in the sixth annual conference of the European Association of Health Law (EAHL). The conference was organized by the Faculty of Law, University of Bergen, Norway in cooperation with the EAHL, and its theme was health rights regulations and the distribution of health care in Europe.

During the EAHL conference, Professor Toebes gave a keynote lecture entitled ‘International Human Rights Protection and the Distribution of Healthcare’. In her lecture, Toebes discussed the scope of the right to health care at the international, regional and domestic levels. Among other matters, she discussed the authoritative case law of the European Court of Human Rights. As seen in cases such as Sentges v the Netherlands and Vasileva v Bulgaria, the Court is increasingly engaging with health matters, touching in particular on the duty of the State to oversee the quality of healthcare services as well as possibilities for redress. Toebes explained that the right to health care as defined internationally does not provide a comprehensive set of standards when it comes to the distribution of health care. However, the so-called ‘AAAQ’ (i.e. availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality), for example, provides an authoritative set of principles that is increasingly applied in the context of healthcare distribution at the domestic level, as was also evidenced by the presentations from various participants at the conference (e.g. the presentation by Professor Hartlev on personalised medicine).  Continue reading


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Grand Challenges for Global Health Law: from Ebola, to Cancer and Diabetes

By Brigit Toebes, University of Groningenb.c.a.toebes@rug.nl

In 2014, the largest and by far most serious outbreak of Ebola since the virus was first detected in 1976 occurred. With an overall death toll of 11.300, there were more cases and deaths in this outbreak than in all others combined. The disease quickly spread between countries, starting in Guinea and then spreading to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The International Health Regulations, adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005 to monitor such outbreaks, provide for a chain of responses requiring the country where the outbreak occurs to report to the WHO and the WHO to respond and to interfere. However, while the affected States were slow to report to the WHO, the WHO waited five months before it declared the epidemic a ‘public health emergency of international concern’. Consequently, the UN Security Council interfered with the adoption of UNMEER, the first UN emergency health mission. The Ebola outbreak reveals that the WHO, the primary organization to manage global health, is ill-equipped to deal with a global health security crisis. The International Health Regulations lack an enforcement mechanism and do not provide for the possibility to sanction States in case of non-compliance. The WHO itself lacks the financial means and the capacity to be the key player when a health emergency that potentially poses a threat to global health occurs. Continue reading