Health and Human Rights

Course content

This course will educate you in states’ human rights obligations and train you to evaluate health laws and policies through a human rights lens. Perhaps imposing lockdowns makes good sense from a public health perspective but is this compliant with human rights? Using algorithms in hospitals and research projects may lead to more precise treatments but what are the privacy implications of processing patients’ personal data?


We will analyse human rights protected under international, regional and national laws, including the right to health, food, education and information, freedom of speech and privacy. You will explore how the GDPR interacts with human and patients’ rights. The course also draws on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially SDG 3 “good health and wellbeing”.


The first part of the course provides students with comprehensive knowledge and competences in health and human rights, social determinants of health, equality in health, access to justice (Regional Courts, UN monitoring committees), the relation between human rights, patients’ rights and public health law.


The second part of the course evaluates specific health interventions from a human rights perspective, including issues related to vulnerable groups (children, older persons, persons with disability), chronic diseases, reproductive rights, end-of-life- decisions, big data and artificial intelligence, genetics, epidemics and pandemics, and mandatory vaccines. Two workshops will prepare the students to write the independent assignment for the exam.


The course builds on the mandatory BA-courses in international law and human rights. It relates, furthermore, to the elective BA-courses in Health law, and EU data protection 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).

Tobes, Hendriks, Hartlev, O’Cathaoir, Rothmar Herrmann, Sinding Aasen, Health and Human Rights: Global and European Perspectives, Intersentia, 2022.

Supplementary material provided in Absalon

In total 750 pages


It is illegal to share digital textbooks with each other without permission from the copyright holder.

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
Home assignment
Type of assessment details
Individual written assignment

Read about the descriptions of the individual exam forms, including formal requirements, scope and deadlines in the exam catalogue

Read about practical exam conditions at KUnet

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Exam period

Hand-in date: January 3, 2025


Hand-in date: February 11, 2025

Single subject courses (day)

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


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Full Degree Master choice

1 semester

  1. Students enrolled at Faculty of Law or holding a pre-approval: No tuition fee

Professionals: Please visit our website

Please see timetable for teaching hours
Contracting department
  • Law
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Law
Course Coordinator
  • Katharina Ó Cathaoir   (20-6f65786c65766d72653273326765786c65736d76446e7976326f7932686f)
Saved on the 30-04-2024

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students