A child's right to healthcare: the obligation and enforcement of international human rights law

Dominic Andrew O'Brien

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The obligation of the State to ensure children have access to healthcare is surprisingly contentious with Western capitalism demanding open markets free from interference. Such a view holds healthcare services as a commodity to be traded. A ‘right’ to health is only a goal to many, not a tangible guarantee States can rationally be expected to ensure because of the enormous costs and the difficulties presented to a court in adjudicating this right. On this view it is impossible for a child to have a legal right to access healthcare. This thesis combats such arguments. The obligation of the State is discussed from a moral standpoint, finding that the child’s right to health must be a State and a global obligation in any just society. Pragmatic discussion addresses the problem of legalising the obligation and showing the right can be a tangible guarantee. This is done through two paradigms: firstly, by looking at current international law and its implementation; and secondly, by looking at countries with a right to healthcare in their written constitution and adjudication of such a right. This combats the legal right arguments as well as provides lessons that international law can learn from. This thesis contributes to discussion around the effective enforcement and implementation of human rights, especially economic, social and cultural rights. It does this by examining the scope of a child’s right to health, and arguing for a moral obligation for its provision, as well as more pragmatic discussion on how to enforce such rights and adjudicate them to make them worth more than words on paper. The final chapter brings together various proposals for tackling the global challenge to ensure every child in the world has access to basic minimum healthcare.
Original languageEnglish
  • Smith, Rhona, Supervisor
  • Farran, Sue, Supervisor
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


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