Universiteit Leiden

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Expert Meeting: Solidarity and the Right to Health in the Era of Healthcare Commercialization

On 13 April, an expert meeting to discuss the doctoral thesis of Eduardo Arenas Catalán was held at Leiden Law School. The discussion, chaired by Aart Hendriks, Professor of Health Law at Leiden Law School, included the contributions from Javier Couso Salas, Professor at Universidad Diego Portales and Utrecht University and former holder of the Prince Claus Chair, Antoine Buyse, Professor of Human Rights at Utrecht University and Director of the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights and Adriaan Bedner, Professor of Law and Society at Leiden Law School and Director of the Van Vollenhoven Institute.

Arenas Catalán began by indicating that his thesis entailed an exploration of the normative dimensions of social justice within human rights law. What we understand by social rights today appears to borrow less and less from classical ideas of what social rights were supposed to deliver, he commented. Examples of those views included the New Deal agenda of former US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt or the ideas of theorists such as T.H. Marhsall. The British National Health Service (NHS), is perhaps the starkest expression of the West’s attempt of shaping social rights as mechanisms to counter social inequalities by delivering universal equal entitlements.

Arenas Catalán concluded indicating that the revitalization of the social justice discussion within human rights law is relevant in times where the rule of law, human rights law and democracy are affected by so many challenges. Sustainable solutions are those that address the sources of the great social inequalities affecting people’s lives. In the case of the right to health, the root of these inequalities leads to the commercialization of health. Rather than trying to mereley countering the different instantiations of deprivation, the critical question to human rights law scholars should be how to address the root of these issues, legally. This thesis, Arenas Catalán concluded, hopefully sheds light on when that is not really pursued, and when that would be in process of being attempted.

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