Right to Health
- Ms. Swati Kaushal, Assistant Professor, JEMTEC, School of Law
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”
- Jiddu Krishnamurthy
A healthy body is the foundation of all its activities. Health is often considered as a scientific discipline that requires expertise, knowledge and skill of medicine confined to the medical professionals and scientists but it encompasses socio-economic and political determinants as well as defined by the WHO. The importance of health has been emphasized by WHO as “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease”. Indian constitution recognizes the right to health through Right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 which is the essence of every human being. It further provides protection under part-IV as DPSP (Directive Principles of State Policy) through Article 39, 47 and 49 but these are non-justifiable rights.
The right to health has become one of the most crucial issue in the light of non-availability of proper medical care and healing facilities to the individuals in need and to the whole community at large with reference to community health. Various philosophers and their philosophies have often undermined health as a component to be looked upon as social good be it the Utilitarian Philosophy or Rawlsian Social Justice Theory. It is a kind of social problem as recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 under Article 25, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control”. Now right to health is universally recognized.
Traditionally it had individualistic approach with the obligation on the individual to look after his health and take preventive measures to remain in the best of his health and then on the medical professionals to provide best medical treatment and facilities available with them. With the changing notions of healthcare in a welfare society, concept of community health also achieved importance.
Due to judicial activism and creative approach of Indian Judiciary, the right to health became the beacon of light for many victims who were refused medical treatment as held in the case of Parmanand Katara v. Union of India (1989 AIR SC 2039,. In this case, victims of accident were refused treatment by the hospital and were directed to seek treatment at the specific hospital assigned to take up medico-legal cases. Hn’ble Supreme Court held that due to the seriousness and utter need of the patients to seek treatment, administrative hassles must be bend and patients should be provided treatment as soon as possible. In another case of Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti v. State of West Bengal (AIR 1996 SC 2426), a train accident patient was refused treatment in many government hospitals of Calcutta on the pretext of non-availability of proper treatment. Later, the victim was treated at a private hospital but delay in treatment aggravated his injuries. The Court issued notices to all State governments and directed them to undertake measures to ensure the provision of minimal primary health facilities. With the judicial intervention, the onus has shifted to the state players to execute this right.
According to a recent report (NSSO survey 2014 Report, Times of India, 23rd Apr. 2016- “Medical Expenses Bleeds India’s Poor”), 86% of rural and 82% of urban population is not covered under any medical or healthcare policy/scheme of India. Debt taken to afford the medical treatment is also one of the major causes of increasing poverty in the country. The government was able to bring only 12 % of urban and 13% of rural population under health protection through Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana for unorganized workers and families below Poverty Line. In a developing nation like India, not every individual is in a position to afford proper medical treatment due to the economic disparity of its citizens, so the role of state in a welfare state becomes crucial and pivotal to ensure that proper healthcare reaches all.
For ensuring proper health, the inter-relationship between factors like clean living environment, safe working conditions, awareness about disease prevention and social security measures in respect of disability, unemployment, sickness and injury needs be addressed as well.
The right to health is a natural corollary of the right to life and, therefore, denying someone healthcare is like denying a living human being the right to live out her natural life span. In a welfare state like India, right to health can outreach the masses only when the state realizes its responsibility to execute in a much more effective way and also the role of each and every member of the society should realize their duty to follow and implement it.