Photo: UN

Ottar Mæstad

Research Professor / Special Adviser, Director Development Learning Lab

Lise Rakner

Professor at University of Bergen and Affiliated Research Professor

Right to health through litigation? Can court enforced health rights improve health policy?

The project investigates whether litigation can make health policies and -systems in poor countries more equitable by forcing policy-makers and administrators to take seriously their human rights obligations. Cases regarding the right to health care are increasingly brought before the courts. In a number of low- and middle-income countries – first in Latin America, later also in Africa and Asia, court decisions have granted access to medical treatment. These are decisions with potentially great implications for how health sector resources are prioritized and allocated, but so far there is little systematic knowledge of the actual effect of such cases on health policy formation and spending. We address three sets of questions:

  • How does litigation on health rights affect health policy and -spending in low- and middle-income countries? Does it lead to more or less fairness in treatment of various groups of patients?
  • What drives the “litigation wave”? How does international human rights norms enter into domestic litigation in these cases?
  • How do courts negotiate this technically complex and often politically sensitive terrain?

Project proposal