70125 - International Law and Health

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

No poverty Good health and well-being Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student has an in-depth understanding of the relationship between international law and public health. The student becomes familiar with the principal issues of international health law, including the major international health Treaties and governing structures. The focus of the course is especially oriented on international institutions such as: the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, the World Trade Organization, the International Labor Organization, and the World Bank; and on the important role that those play in the international health governance and in the development of health regulation and policy. A comprehensive approach to international health law involves multiple, interrelated fields, including trade, economics, intellectual property, human rights, ethics, and national security. Through the unit, the student is trained to identify legal issues and to explore the tension between public goals and private rights and interests, and he/she is expected to apply the law to particular policy contexts and public health issues and to critically evaluate the laws effectiveness in protecting and promoting the public health.

Course contents

Course description

This course provides a critical overview of the contemporary international legal framework concerning the right to health also in light of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The course will focus on the following issues:

a) Definition, scope and functions of international health law;

b) The right to health as a fundamental human right: special characters and challenges related to vulnerable groups, health care rationing issues;

c) The role of governmental and non-governmental organisations in international health governance;

d) European health law, including patients' rights;


readings Lecture 1:

• D Ruggiu, Human Dignity, 2018, pp 287-301 (reader)
• T.J. Melish, ‘Introductory Note to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’, in International Legal Materials 48 (2009), p. 1-20.(READER)

readings lecture 2 (articles)

• A. den Exter, ‘The Right to health Care’, in A. den Exter (ed.) Compendium European Health Law Antwerpen/Apeldoorn/Portland: MAKLU 2017, p. 107-132.
• P. Hunt, ‘Interpreting the International Right to Health in a Human Rights-Based Approach to Health’, Papers in Press 2016. This article can be found at https://www.hhrjournal.org/2016/12/interpreting-the-international-right-to-health-in-a-human-rights-based-approach-to-health/
• A. den Exter, Strasbourg Medical Expulsion Rulings: Beyond the Deathbed Requirement, EJHL 27 (2019) p. 1-10 (READER)


readings Lecture 3

- K. Syrett, Healthcare Rationing and the Law in: A. den Exter, Compendium European Health Law (Maklu 2017), p. 173-198
- F Kesselring, First Fundamental Decision of the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland on Cost-Effectiveness in the Area of Human Healthcare, 442-6, Case Notes EJRR 3|2011 (reader)
- A den Exter & M Buijsen, Rationing Health Care. Hard Choices and unavoidable Trade offs, preface, 7-10 (reader)
• B. Rumbold et.al., ‘Universal Health Coverage, priority Setting, and the Human Right to Health’, in The Lancet 2017 (390), p. 712-714. This article can be found at https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)30931-5/fulltext

readings Lecture 4

- André den Exter (ed) Introduction, in: Human Rights and Biomedicine (Maklu Press 2009), p. 1-8 (reader)

- A. Garwood-Gowers & S. Olsena, ‘Informed Consent’, in A. den Exter (ed.) Compendium European Health Law Antwerpen/Apeldoorn/Portland: MAKLU 2017, p. 245-272.

- B Buchner, Privacy, in: A. den Exter, Compendium European Health Law (Maklu Press 2017), p. 273-290

Teaching methods

Lectures and analysis of some Courts' rulings

Assessment methods

The overall assessment will be based on a final written examination, the details of which will be communicated at the beginning of the lectures.

Teaching tools

Teaching materials will be uploaded on the lecturer's website.

Office hours

See the website of Andre Pieter Den Exter