Dec 4, 2023
12:00pm - 1:30pm    |    Wilf Hall, 5th Floor Seminar Room
Holistic Liberty: The Right to Health
Unlike the 1919 Weimar Constitution and the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights (“UDHR”), the 1949 German Basic Law does not include social rights, because the framers considered that they could not be binding in the same way as civil and political rights. Similar debates have historically split the human rights regime in half.
Using the right to health as an example, my aim is to demonstrate that the two “halves” of the human rights regime is no longer all that different from one another. Both include negative obligations to respect individual liberty and positive obligation to protect the enjoyment of rights from third-party interference, to facilitate and promote this enjoyment, and—in exceptional circumstances—even to fulfill basic needs.
In parallel, from the civil and political rights catalog of the Basic Law, the German Federal Constitutional Court has also developed a duty to protect fundamental rights, for example in situations of medical triage, an obligation to provide for existential minimum benefits including for health, and even an obligation to grant specific medical services in exceptional circumstances. More assertively adopting the respect, protect, fulfil framework would give a clearer structure to these doctrinal moves.
With this example, I seek to show that a holistic concept of liberty is underlying this development, one that reunites what was separated following the UDHR’s groundbreaking agenda; indeed, this concept was present in the historical debates over the Covenants and the Basic Law. Crucially, this means conceptualizing liberty as reliant on solidarity; in that way, my research ties in with feminist concepts of relational autonomy.

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