A woman of South America decent protesting with one fist raised in the air above her head to represent the topic of the article - Human Rights In Healthcare

Human Rights In Healthcare

Due to the continuing protests going on in America, the UK, and other countries across the world, because of the never-ending acts of police brutality and institutional racism towards the black community, I thought I’d write an article about human rights in relation to healthcare. Because there too, you can be discriminated against, and in some cases, this has also led to someone dying.


“The right to the highest attainable standard of health” implies a clear set of legal obligations on states to ensure appropriate conditions for the enjoyment of health for all people without discrimination.



This can be and is interpreted to mean that people have a human right to healthcare. As such, many countries have taken these human rights and applied them to their own laws, constitutions, and healthcare practices.


A quote of former US President, Jimmy Carter, on Human Rights to represent the article title - Human Rights Healthcare



Human Rights Approach To Healthcare


The human rights approach to healthcare is designed to tackle all forms of discrimination, not just those of the nine protected groups: Age, Race, Disability, Gender Reassignment, Marriage and Civil Partnership, Pregnancy and Maternity, Sex, Religion and Beliefs, and Sexual Orientation (NHS).


Human rights are the basic rights that we are all entitled to as human beings. These are our core rights to live a life of dignity and respect, which makes up the minimum that needs to be met. The Department of Health identified five key areas for applying human rights laws to healthcare:


  1. Making human rights principles and standards the heart of policy and planning.

  2. Empowering patients and staff with information, knowledge, skills and organisational leadership and commitment to achieve a human rights-based approach.

  3. Enabling meaningful involvement and participation of all key stakeholders.

  4. Ensuring clear and transparent accountability throughout the organisation.

  5. To tackle discrimination and to pay attention to vulnerable groups.




Human Rights: The FREDA Principles


The five key areas identified by The Department of Health led to the creation of the FREDA principles (fairness, respect, equality, dignity and autonomy), which are there to guide how the NHS and other public bodies should treat people.



This principle demands that due consideration is afforded to the person’s opinion, giving them the opportunity to have that point of view expressed, listened to and weighed, alongside other factors relevant to the decision to be taken.


This comes into play when talking about treatments decision or talking about medical conditions but is also a factor in when, and if, you can be held under the Mental Health Act (1983) and Mental Capacity Act (2005).



Respect is the objective, unbiased consideration and regard for the rights, values, beliefs, and property of other people. Respect applies to the person as well as their value systems and implies that these are fully considered before decisions that may overrule them are taken.


In short, this means your privacy has to be respected and protected, as well as protecting patients from decisions, like what treatment to take, and factoring in the patient’s beliefs to avoid violating them.


Human Rights In Healthcare | Mental Health and Health Wellbeing



Many facets behind the principle of equality, including non-discrimination, overlap with respect. The NHS itself was founded on the principles of equality of access and equality of treatment.


However, just because they were founded on these principles, doesn’t mean they’re being adhered to as they should be. For some reason, health professionals have a belief that black and white people are biologically different and thus need different pain management and treatments. This unsupported view is killing black people (Hoffman, Trawalter, Axt, and Oliver, 2016).



Dignity has been defined as a state, quality, or manner worthy of esteem or respect; and (by extension) self-respect. Dignity in care, therefore, means the kind of care, in any setting, which supports and promotes, and does not undermine, a person’s self-respect regardless of any differences.


In an NHS setting, this would also refer to having safe environments, being protected from abuse, helping you to the toilet if needed, keeping you clean, respecting privacy, etc.



Autonomy is regarded as one of the four fundamental ethical principles of healthcare. It is the principle of self-determination whereby a person is allowed to make free choices about what happens to them – that is, the freedom to act and the freedom to decide, based on clear, sufficient and relevant information and opportunities, to participate in the decision-making.


This is the ideal, but unfortunately isn’t always the case, at least not in my experience. When it comes to mental health, there’s sometimes only one option that’s going to be made available to you, and you can either accept it or go without treatment. Your input in treatment decision-making makes no difference, even though personalised patient care is taught in the NHS as best practice (NHS).




NICE Guidelines


The NICE creates guidelines based on evidence-based recommendations developed by independent committees (including professionals and lay members) and consulted on by stakeholders.


NICE has guidelines that cover pretty much everything, and when I made a complaint about my Mental Health Trust a few years ago, I looked up relevant NICE guidelines to sure up my complaint. Thus, the following are some of the relevant NICE guidelines I found, which you also might find useful to know.


NICE (2012) – Patient experience in adult NHS services: improving the experience of care for people using adult NHS services


The following important areas of this guideline could be useful for getting your needs met as a client. There are a lot of important points in the guideline, but these two, I feel at least, are the most important to remember.


1.1 Knowing the patient as an individual. This part of the guidelines states how the patient should be seen and treated as an individual. When dealing with a patient, they should seek to know how the patient’s conditions and their experience of living with these conditions, affect them as an individual. 


1.3 Tailoring healthcare services for each patient. Patients are individuals and should be treated as such. Thus, when seeking treatment from the NHS, services should be tailored to meet the needs, preferences, and values of the patient. This should also be extended to treatments, care, risks, and benefits, as individualised as much as possible. This also includes the option to have a second opinion.


NICE (2016) – Multimorbidity: clinical assessment and management


This guideline is important for those who have more than two or more conditions affecting their quality of life, which was important for me due to how my heart condition and my anxiety disorders would cause a negative feedback loop.


1.1 General principles. Multimorbidity refers to the presence of 2+ long-term health conditions, which can be any physical health, mental health, impairment, or learning disability.


The guidelines reinforce what the previous guidelines (NICE, 2012) said about individualised treatment, but restate it to make sure those with multiple issues aren’t being overlooked.


Thus, if a patient requests that their care should factor in their multimorbidity of health issues, then that request should be honoured. It should also be pursued if the person has difficulties managing day-to-day activities, receive care and support from multiple services, they have both long-term mental and physical health conditions, they’re frail, they have regular unplanned/emergency care, and they’re prescribed multiple medications.


This is a must for multiple medications because it’ll help avoid unpleasant interactions (Medication Interactions: Reporting Medication). It’s also important because the patient might have a preference for which order they’d like their issues addressed, as well as making sure there are no clashes between treatment options.




Human Rights In Healthcare – USA


To be honest, I didn’t know where to start with how human rights laws would have been applied to healthcare in America. When US citizens are dying because they can’t afford treatments or medication, it would appear like healthcare isn’t a human right in America, so how could they apply those principles to healthcare. However, I would love to be wrong about this, and if anyone is willing to educate me and my readers, please do so in the comment section below.


Human Rights In Healthcare – Globally


To those from other countries, look into your healthcare rights, because knowing them will help you get the support you need, or at the very least, help you compile a complaint to get the support you need. Again, if anyone from another country would like to share their knowledge about how their country tries to improve healthcare for their citizens through the application of human rights, please let us know in the comments section below. You never know who this might help.


As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences where you were let down by your healthcare providers or where you had to deal with making complaints in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.


Lastly, if you’d like to support my blog, then you can make a donation of any size below as well. Until next time, Unwanted Life readers.







If you’ve had issues with getting the treatment you needed or have been treated poorly by staff at the NHS, then you can get help from several advocacy bodies to help you make a complaint.


However, your first port of call would be to contact your local Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS team) who can offer confidential advice and support, which can help with resolving a lot of issues. If you still need to make a complaint, then you can try contacting:


NHS – How to make a complaint



Citizens Advice – List of advocacy groups

92 thoughts on “Human Rights In Healthcare

  1. Such an informative post and very much needed. It annoys me so much that people can’t see the problems Ithin this system especially when it comes down to discrimination. I recently read about the different pain medication given to black and white individuals that you mentioned and was completely shocked. There definitely needs to be more awareness on this subject, so thank you so much for sharing!

    • Institutional discrimination is everywhere, unfortunately, but too many people like to pretend it doesn’t exist, and because of that, nothing changes

  2. This is so well put, loved it throughout.. we need to know about human rights nicely for once, thanks for venting it out!

  3. Great job explaining how we are supposed to be protected in healthcare. I haven’t personally had an issue but can totally see how discrimination exists. After all, we have discrimination in a lot of areas in the US. Healthcare wouldn’t be an exception.

    • It definitely wouldn’t be an exception in America, if anything, I’d imagine the US healthcare system would have one of the worst issues with discrimination in the western world

  4. This is an interesting post. I grew up very low income in the United States, and I always received good medical care. I think the quality of care goes up exponentially when you see a family physician regularly instead of relying solely on emergency rooms or clinics for isolated treatments.

  5. Very well said. I worked in healthcare for many years and so many things would literally drive me crazy. Wouldn’t even have to do with me. So many people going without any healthcare or getting proper care has been an issue for a long time and it is only getting worse. It is so sad.

  6. This is such a well in depth article and I appreciate the information so much! I wish more people saw the systematic discrimination in health care.

  7. i enjoyed your extremely informative post. It is thought-provoking and a topic that needs to be explored more. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Your posts are always thought provoking and well informed, this one is no different. As a healthcare worker, this country’s healthcare bothers me to no end and this is one of the main reasons why

    • Thank you ? The US healthcare system bothers me too, and I don’t live in America. It also boggles the mind how progressive changes to the US healthcare system are so impossible to implement and sustain

    • This is so educational and interesting to read. I live in Greece where health care is free for all but we all hope we never have to use it. There are guideline for human rights in healthcare but are not followed at all. You would be lucky if you get treatment and not get infected with anything else let alone demanding human rights. Unfortunately, people have accepted it and just use the private hospitals or insurance.

  9. As someone in the US, it irks me to no end that health insurance/quality healthcare is linked to who your employer is. COBRA (continuation of benefits) after leaving workplace is outrageously expensive, and thanks to legislation supposedly making insurance more of a right private market options are just abysmal now. Cash pay used to be a good option but now that comes with tax penalties and lack of care as well.

  10. It is awesome to read this post, since I feel like many people are left at disadvantage with doctors who do not take the time to let them know their rights. It is so much better to make an informed decision and get the care you need and feel safe in it then not. I think I would feel safer going to a doctor or clinic now knowing this. 🙂

  11. Only since my kids came along with their disabilities have I realised just how bad the healthcare system can be. Even when we get someone good, you end up losing them, like the occupational therapist we’ve just lost, after he got frustrated that he just couldn’t offer the support we need because those higher up wouldn’t sanction it over money.

    Another bizarre autism myth, that was even believed by some professionals….black people cant get autism ?‍♂️ thankfully like most of the weird autism myths people have done good work to debunk them. But what a strange way of thinking, the colour of your skin affecting something that is about your brain.

    As for US health care….it completely baffles me.

    • It’s annoying when funding is the only thing getting in the way of appropriate healthcare needs.

      How does a myth that black people can’t be on the autistic spectrum even get started?

  12. It’s usually some idiot who was in the health profession writing a stupid article, and then suddenly everyone is believing it, including doctors.

    The vaccine myth was one doctor, who has since retracted his article saying he was wrong, yet there are still huge numbers of people who believe it.

    • I hate Dr Wakefield. Creating that vaccination myth just so he could become become rich off his own version of the vaccine to replace it, and he’s still pushing that myth. But also, The Lancet should have properly peer reviewed such a claim before publishing it, given there prestigious status. They completely screwed us all over with that too

  13. Awesome post. I find it most scary that something that should come so easily such as respect and fairness and equality are not found in healthcare often. I guess it’s a reflection of the society we live in.

  14. Great post! Thank you for sharing this important and informative post! It disgusts me when people are treated differently or denied healthcare when it is a human right.

    • It’s weird how in some countries, like the US, the citizens have been manipulated not to want healthcare as a human right, even when they’re the ones to benefit from it the most

  15. Great article! Unfortunately many Americans cannot afford healthcare or sufficient healthcare. It’s a dire situation with no end in sight.

    • It’s weird seeing ordinary working and middle class republicans fighting to make sure the healthcare situation doesn’t get better, it’s an epic shooting yourself in the foot move

  16. I was born in N. Ireland but raised mostly in the States. All my family besides my parents are in Ireland and the UK. They cannot understand the amount of $ I’ve paid for my treatments AND I have excellent health insurance. The number one reason for bankruptcy in the States is due to medical bills, including those who have health insurance!

    Americans want to believe that if we offer medical care as a given right, it will turn into “socialism” and a huge increase in their taxes. They’re totally ignorant to the fact that when people cannot pay their medical bills and have to file for bankruptcy, those unpaid bills essentially result in increased medical charges, increased insurance premiums or deductibles for everyone and a huge problem in that people use the ER as their primary care health care provider. That leads to a burden on our healthcare system. So everyone loses.

    Plus, taxes go to pay for the most ridiculous things. If we cut down on the BS in our budgets then we could easily provide healthcare for all.

    Taxes go to pay for education, the roads we drive on, the insane military industrial complex, the failed, useless “war on drugs” and so much else. So why NOT healthcare?

    Plus it’s not socialism or socialized medicine!

    When you say “US citizens are dying because they can’t afford treatments or medication, it would appear like healthcare isn’t a human right in America” you are 100% correct! It’s a disgrace.

    • It’s hard to believe that the richest country in the world would have such distain for its citizens. National healthcare, or at the very least, actual affordable healthcare, is good for the economy as it means workers are healthier and able to send their income.

      After reading your recent post on brain cancer, I imagine the costs of medical care would probably mean more people in the US would die of such forms of cancer than other western countries

      • A healthy worker is a productive worker, and that’s capitalism not socialism. Not that socialism is something to be scared of, especially when politians enjoy “socialised” healthcare

      • Living here, but growing up in a more European-type of household and traveling all over the world, it’s not hard to believe when you see it day-in and day-out.

        I don’t subscribe to the “America is the greatest country in the world” attitude, nor the “Me, me, me” attitude that is so pervasive here. Yet, those people will spend 5 hours in Church on a Sunday listening to Gospels about how we need to care for the hungry, the poor and the sick.

        Every country has its problems. I’m well aware. However, the utter ignorance surrounding healthcare is truly baffling. Maternity leave, women’s health and similar issues – that’s a whole entire problem within this discussion as well!

        Yes. I have many friends that literally would not have been able to get their chemo without the Affordable Care Act ( I will NOT call it “Obamacare” ?). I also know of cancer patients that forgo treatment because it’s either get chemo or pay my mortgage!

        It extends to all chronic illnesses. Take insulin just for example. The most basic drug that has existed for how long? People go to Mexico to buy it because it’s cheaper than going through insurance, or paying out-of-pocket here!!! It’s pure insanity.

        • I’ve read countless stores of US citizens rationing insulin and dying because of it. America is unspeakably cruel to it’s citizens to out price medication people can’t live without.

          The attacks on reproduction rights and contraceptives is also baffling. If you want to reduce abortions, make the contraceptive pill freely available. And if you care about unborn babies, then you also have to support them when they’re born so they can grow up to be a productive working member of society, to be used by the wealthy to get richer off their work

  17. I liked how you brought up Equality in this post. We need equality between men and women and between people of all races and ethnicities. Until we have equality in our world, we won’t be able to do much successfully.

  18. This is such an important post for people to read. I love that you have adapted it for people from different countries.
    Thanks for sharing

    • I wish I was able to properly adapt it to other countries. But I’m hoping people from other countries would share how they’re country has or hasn’t implemented human rights into their countries healthcare in the comments section, so we could all be better informed

  19. I really appreciate you sharing this information it is so needed. I feel like post like these is what will help educate people and hopefully open their eyes on the work that still needs to be done in our society.

    nikki o.

  20. Such a thoughtful post. We should respect everyone person despite of all the list under discrimination. Thanks for sharing wonderful thought.

  21. This is such an informative post! It’s great that you have linked your sources throughout as well. Some doctors think that their position makes them right, leaving the patients concerns being ignored. Despite their expertise, sometimes a patients instincts are right. Another issue is that research is very much focused on Western ‘norms’ and behaviours as well and that is something that we should be cautious of when we’re talking about diagnoses and medical interventions or the presentation of symptoms, especially when we are talking about mental health. If we’re talking about blood tests as another example, some cultures may have naturally higher or lower levels so what’s ‘normal’ will potentially vary.

    • Pretty much everything in the UK is based on a white male standard, so even being a white women seeking medical help can find issues with getting appropriate support as well

  22. This was such a needed post! A lot of people still don’t understand that institutional racism exists in so many spaces. I have had such harrowing experiences as a black female seeking medical attention, and in many instances have suffered greater health risks simply because as a black female I am at the absolute bottom of the hierachy.

    • I’ve reported to therapists, doctors, and specialists about my eating disorder, and nothing was ever done about it because I’m a guy, and I developed reactive hypoglycaemia because of it

  23. This is a really insightful post and very useful as I’m going through struggles with my psychiatrist atm and not receiving the best care x

    • Have you made your therapist aware that there’s some issues between the two of you that will make treatment goals harder to accomplish? That’s normally a good first step, as then you can both work on the issues to resolve it.

      Failing that, theirs nothing wrong with requesting to work with another therapist, often you just don’t click with some people. The theraputic relationship is one of the most important aspects of getting effective treatments, so they should be understanding of such a request.

      If that doesn’t work, then see what your options are for escalating the issue to get the care you need

  24. Ah, this! What a great read. And you are not wrong about human rights and healthcare in America!

  25. 100%! Healthcare here in the U.S. is not a right, because if it was, there would be no barriers to accessing it and everyone would have an equal shot at getting treatment without having to bankrupt ourselves (even if you have insurance) to try and cover things. GoFundMe has a high proportion of the fundraisers that are about needing help with medical expenses (I have one going for my husband who has late stage cancer). Not to mention the discrimination that is embedded into the whole system. It’s a travesty. Thanks for writing about this!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I’m sorry to hear about your husband. I hope you’re able to secure the treatment he needs.

      I remember seeing a news report about the scale of American’s having to using crowdfunding sites to pay for medical expenses; shocking that something like that has to be done. I also remember watching a documentary about how a charity that originally used to provide free dental and healthcare to South America, had started providing that in the US. The richest nation on earth forcing it’s citizens to use crowdfunding and charity for basic healthcare needs. What’s the point of being the richest nation on earth if the people that live there live in such a terrible situation

  26. Completely agree. This is one sensitive issue which needs an immediate address. In the US, it is one of the major concerns. I am not sure what to say about the solution to this problem but some human rights policy should be implemented in healthcare field for sure. The healthcare should definitely be available to everyone equally and easily irrespective of gender, nationality ,or race.

    • I’m glad I live in a country where I won’t lose my healthcare, as long as the Tories don’t sell out the NHS to America in desperation for a trade deal due to the shit show that is Brexit

  27. Great post. The US Healthcare system leaves a lot to be desired. There’s so much discrimination based on race, sexuality, and class. The costs are exorbitant and it’s hard to afford a trip to the doctor’s even with insurance. I even find myself, with a stable career and health insurance, avoiding appointments due to their high cost. I could not imagine being less fortunate and trying to maintain my health. Thank you for sharing

    • The American healthcare does seems depressing bleak. It must be frustrating that any efforts to improve it gets stopped in it’s track or refunded when the republicans get their hands on it

  28. This really resonated with me. Until I reached school age and brought home forms about assistance, my siblings and I never had health insurance. We went to free clinics for our physicals. My parents have been known to go decades without insurance. Luckily, they were covered on the rare occasion that an emergency would hit, and luckily, we all now have jobs that offer healthcare. Maybe not great coverage and in some cases it’s expensive. I understand that medical treatment is costly, but does it really need to be that costly? I feel if they can bring the costs of medical treatment down, everyone could afford or be eligible for coverage. But too many people capitalize off of life saving treatment and put others in debt to the point where some would rather take their chances than rack up high medical bills. It’s so wrong and such a complicated issue that I know there’s no simple answer, but I think we can all agree it’s worth working on.

    • Medical costs in America are massively over inflated due to the weird insurance model you have. And who thought it’d be a good idea to tie your health insurance to the whims of your employer? Such a terrible idea

  29. It is terrible to know about the different treatments given due to skin color. Living in the middle east and europe I am happy with the free medical care but of course we don’t want to get sick. But coming from a third world country, bottomline is you need to have the finances to afford a good medical care. The government hospitals are always exhausted and medicines are not enough. The government program gives you free hospitalization but if meds are not available you need to purchase from outside. And not everyone can afford. I hope thongs change.

  30. I am so tired and sad that we still have to write posts like this. That we, as people of colour, still have to address the failures of a system that should in theory work for everyone. But that’s the problem isn’t it – systems are not set up for everyone – they are set up to serve a certain section of our society, world wide.

    I want to live in a world where equality means equality for every single human being on this planet. It feels so weak to say that, that we are all a part of the human race when the people in power quite clearly set out, from the offset, who is actually a part of the human race and who is sub human, thus allowed certain rights.

    This is our world and we belong here. And we are entitled to a life that on every level is fair, just and equal. Thank you for writing and raising the issue. The more people that read, see and educate themselves will hopefully lead us on to creating a world where true equality in experienced by all.
    Thank you for such an informative post.

    • It is indeed saddening that we still live in a world deeply rooted in keeping things unequal, but we can’t let that stop us from molding this world into something better for the next generations

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