Health and Human Rights

Course content

The course is centered around the right to health as protected under human rights law. As the right to health is closely related to other human rights, such as the right to food, adequate standard of living, education and information, right to life, freedom of speech/right to information, right to privacy, etc) it touches upon broad areas of human rights law both at international, regional and national level. The course is structured around the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): SDG 3 “good health and wellbeing”, and other goals that are also closely related to the right to health will be explored during the course.

The first part of the course will be dedicated to giving the students comprehensive knowledge and competences in general health and human rights issues (the right to health as a human right, related rights (the other SDG’s such as right to food, clean water and sanitation etc.), social determinants of health, equality in health, progressive realization and core basket, rights to medicine, justiciability/access to justice (Regional Courts, UN monitoring committees), the relation between human rights, patients’ rights and public health law. The last part of the course will focus on a number of specific issues including vulnerable groups (children, elderly persons, persons with disability), human rights and chronic diseases, reproductive rights, end-of-life- decisions, human rights and new health technologies, and workshops preparing the students to write the independent assignment for the exam.

The course builds upon the mandatory BA-courses in Public international law, EU-law, Fundamental Rights of the Individual and Administrative law. It relates, furthermore, to the elective BA-courses Health law, and Discrimination and Equality Law. Basic knowledge of international human rights law (e.g. from International Human Rights Law, or Health Law) is an advantage, but not a necessity

Learning outcome

Knowledge: Students can

  • describe and explain how the right to health and related human rights are protected in international, regional and national law
  • describe and explain the character and functioning of the international and regional human rights mechanisms and their importance for access to justice
  • describe and explain the special status of vulnerable persons in health and human rights law
  • describe and explain a human rights based approach to health



  • Identify and explain the relation between health and human rights law and the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Make a comparative analysis of particular health and human rights topics
  • Make an assessment of the compliance of national law with human rights law
  • Critically reflect upon how global, regional and national enforcement mechanisms address various health and human rights-related topics
  • Identify and critically discuss the distinction between soft and hard law in international and regional human rights law
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses in the relation between public health law and health and human rights law



  • Make a thorough analysis of complex issues in international, regional and national human rights law
  • Give advice on how to improve compliance with international and regional human rights law

The course requires active engagement from the students. The students will have to complete some assignments before every class,(e.g. reading a judgment, making a country analyses, preparing a case) which will be used actively as a bases for a group work or a general discussion. Every class will include (at least one) group work and several general discussions and exercises. This interactive part will include both peer- and teacher feedback.
After the first 6 weeks the students are encouraged to write a (voluntary) abstract on one of the topics explored in the first part of the course, and they will receive individual written feedback from the teacher.
To prepare for the exam paper there will be a workshop where the students will present and discuss their topic and work on a research question in groups (with feedback from both peers and the teacher).

Brigit Toebes (ed:), "Health and Human Rights in Europe", Intersentia 2012 Supplementary material provided in Absalon

In total 750 pages

Basic knowledge of international human rights law is recommendable but not a pre-condition to follow the course

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

During the course we will use several forms of feedback (written/oral, individual/collective, , feedback from peers and from the teacher.

Type of assessment
Written examination
Individual written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • English
  • 412,5