Guilin, 2017: China Hosts Country’s First International Symposium on Global Health Law

By Yi Zhang (Eva), University of Groningen Faculty of Law, PhD Candidate, yi.zhang@rug.nl

In order to further promote the level of global health governance and encourage research in global health law, the 2017 International Symposium on Global Health Law was held in Guilin city, China from July 2nd to July 3rd, 2017. The organizer of the symposium was Central South University, China. The symposium was hosted jointly by the Institute of Medical and Health Law of Central South University, the O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law of Georgetown University, and the Global Health Law Research Centre of the University of Groningen (GHLG).

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The theme of this symposium was “Global medical health and relevant legal issues”. Altogether, over 80 academic papers were accepted, and more than 80 experts from all over the world from colleges, universities, research institutes, and law practice departments attended the symposium and shared a comprehensive discussion on the abovementioned theme. The experts were from Central South University, China; Georgetown University, US; Groningen University, the Netherlands; Yale University, US; Harvard University, US; Temple University, US; Hokkaido University, Japan; Taiwan University, China; Tsinghua University, China; and Peking University, China.

The Director of the Office of International Cooperation and Exchange, Yi Bai, stated in his address that 2017 was an important year to carry out the theme of National Health and Wellness and to carry through the “13th five-year plan” of deepening the health care system reform in China. He also emphasized that it is the key year to construct the basic framework of a proper functioning medical and health care system and to accomplish staged tasks of reforming the pharmaceutical and health care system in China. It can be predicted that holding the first International Symposium on Global Health Law would promote the development of global health law research in China.

Throughout the symposium, expertise were shared on global health issues including discussions on disease prevention and treatment, global health governance,  international law and human rights in health protection, and national policy approaches to health-related issues such as drunk-driving, tobacco, health insurance, and access to medicines.

In their academic summary, Central South University Xiangya School of Public Health Professor Guoqing Hu said of the symposium that it was, on one hand, a real interdisciplinary crossing had been realised at the symposium with each paper having its own special value; on the other hand, through taking advantage of every subject and international communication, new challenges and problems home and abroad had been explored.

At noon on July 3rd, 2017, after a day and a half of heated discussion, the closing ceremony was held. University of Groningen Prof Brigit Toebes hereby functioned as the host. In her speech, she praised the huge success of the symposium, and she took great pleasure in seeing that many famous scholars from different countries were invited to attend the symposium and that over 80 professors assembled at the symposium to have an in-depth discussion of global health law issues. She was inspired by the speeches of each individual expert, and accordingly made a wonderful comment on the symposium with ten questions to share with the delegates and to cast light for the future global health law research,:

(1) What is global health law; what are its scope and implications?

(2) What are the roles and positions of human rights, ethics, governance, and other related disciplines in global health law?

(3) What are the implications of global health law for domestic health care settings?

(4) What can we learn from other countries when it comes to ‘good practice’ in domestic health laws?

(5) How can we measure the effectiveness of health laws in a transdisciplinary manner?

(6) How do we balance care and prevention?

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(7) How can health insurance best be organized and what can we learn from countries like Japan, Taiwan, and the Netherlands: public, private, or a mix?

(8) Against the backdrop of an aging population, the rising cost of medicines and care, and the increase in non-communicable diseases, how can costs be reduced whilst maintaining equality in access to care?

(9) How may overconsumption of medical services be reduced?

(10) How can health lifestyles be encouraged, while e paying due attention to the autonomy, privacy, and self-determination of individuals?

Finally, Prof Yunliang Chen delivered a closing speech, and he concluded that a great power must participate in global health governance and the research on global health law was a major demand for China. He also wished the participants would strengthen global health law research to promote global health governance in China.

For the full report, click here.

 

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The Legal Ban on Sex-Selective Abortions: a Step Backwards to Women’s Reproductive Health and Rights in Armenia

By Nikolay Hovhannisyan, University of Groningen LLM International Human Rights Law, n.hovhannisyan@student.rug.nl

 
Sex-selective abortions raise moral, legal, and social issues, reinforcing discrimination and sexist stereotypes towards women by devaluing females.[i] In countries like Armenia, where the underlying reason for sex-selective abortions is the widespread son preference, it implies the concept of valuing women only if they are able to produce sons. To tackle son preference in the country and normalize the sex-ratio, in 2016 the Government introduced a legal ban on sex-selective abortions. Whereas the harms of sex-selective abortions are severe, the question is whether such restriction is the most effective and acceptable tool in preventing the practice of sex-selective abortions from occurring and what the implications of such restriction are.

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Voices in the Field: Dr. Adriaan van Es

Dr. Adriaan van Es, founder and Secretary of GHLG partner IFHHRO, is an MD, family doctor and counselor on end-of-life decisions.  Dr van Es is also active in health related human rights advocacy.  Learn more from the video below as part of our interview series, Voices in the Field*

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Voices in the Field: Professor Hans Hogerzeil

Hans Hogerzeil is a Professor at the University of Groningen’s Faculty of Medical Sciences who has a rich background in the field of health and human rights that has involved hands on practice as a doctor in Ghana and India, important contributions to pharmaceutical policy development via the WHO, and a large quantity of significant academic publications. While working at the WHO,he advised over 40 developing countries, was Secretary to their Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines, and worked as Director of Essential Medicines and Pharmaceutical Policies. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh and has an honorary Doctorate of Science from the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland.

As an expert in global health, access to essential medicines, pharmaceutical policy, and human rights, Prof. Hogerzeil has much to add to the health and human rights discussion as a contributor to Voices in the Field*

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Voices in the Field: Professor Henriette Roscam Abbing

By Jacquelyn Veraldi and Prof. Brigit Toebes

45036e6d-3381-4009-95db-bc30b5f0182f_Roscam Abbing.jpgProfessor Henriette Roscam Abbing has a diverse and extensive background in the area of health law.  She currently serves as Chairperson of the European Association of Health Law, a Dutch not-

for-profit organisation that promotes health and human rights and advises on health law and policy across Europe.  She is also an editor for the Dutch Journal on Health Law and the European Journal of Health Law, a member of the Dutch Health Council, and served as a representative to the Council of Europe. Additionally, Roscam Abbingvoices-in-the-field-master-file is a former Professor of Health Law at the universities of Utrecht and Maastricht and served as a legal counsellor at the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. In this interview, Henriette Roscam Abbing tells us about her past career and reflects on the future of health law.   This interview is the first publication from the series ‘Voices in the field,’ a joint endeavour by GHLG and IFHHRO.*

Why and how did you get involved with health law?

It was by sheer accident! I was always interested in European matters: in the first half of the 1960s I conducted several internships at the European Coal and Steel Community and then I had a job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs related to Euratom, where I hardly had anything to do. I quit, looked around for something else and found a position at the Foundation (mostly of art) of Suriname and Dutch Antilles, where I was in charge of writing yearly reports. The position was temporary, as I was filling in for someone who was ill for a long time. In the meantime, I was searching for something more stable and interesting.

As I was always interested in European law-related issues, I was eventually asked by a professor in Leiden to write an exam for a post at the Council of Europe in Strasburg. The result was that they offered me a job at the Public Health division. When I asked what this would entail, the Head of the HR department of the Council of Europe was unable to tell me! He advised me to consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which I did. So I became a functionary at the Public Health division of the Council of Europe, and it is there that my interest for health law came to fruition.  However, after some time I felt I needed a change – despite the fact that my supervisor put me in charge of all kinds of interesting projects – otherwise I would have wound up doing the same administrative type of work for the rest of my life. I then decided to get a PhD.

How did your career path develop? Which professional experience did you find important/enjoy the most?

This is where health law became serious to me. My boss, who supported me in my desire to do a PhD, sent me to a health law conference in Brussels (which turned out to be WAML – the World Association of Medical Law – located in Belgium at the time and which was much more interesting than it is nowadays)  to represent the Council of Europe and to find a professor who would take me on board for writing my thesis; it was there I met my husband, Prof Henk Leenen. I returned to the Netherlands, started to work at the Sickfund Council (head of the extramural care division) and successfully finished my PhD thesis (International Organizations in Europe and the Right to Healthcare, 1979). Eventually the Ministry of Health asked me to fill in a position as Head of Division of the sick fund entitlements and accreditation of health institutions, a temporary job to fill in for someone on sick leave.

Subsequently, Maastricht University invited me to take the Chair of Health Law at the medical faculty. The then Minister of Health did not want me to leave, so in addition to the (part-time) Chair I held in Maastricht, I became a legal adviser (‘Raadadviseur’) to the Minister; this job lasted until my retirement. In the meantime, I moved from Maastricht University to Utrecht University.  The Ministry often sent me to meetings in Brussels and Strasbourg because I ‘knew how it worked’.   In reality, it was often that colleagues did not want to burn their fingers: they left the ‘difficult work’ to me.  For instance, following a meeting in Brussels where my Dutch colleagues did not speak up against 100% exclusion from blood transfusions for persons with HIV, a Scandinavian approached me to thank me for having been ‘just’/fair on the position of homosexuals. Apart from the outset of my career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I enjoyed everything I did.

Could you mention one or two milestones that you have achieved in the field of health law?

Let me give two examples of milestones which, in my opinion, have had great importance, notably for patients:

  1. At the Ministry of Health I took the initiative in concluding a formal agreement between Eurotransplant countries in relation to cross-border exchange of organs at the ministerial level – this is  because I thought if something would go wrong with the organ exchange, the minster would be held responsible and patients would suffer. Eventually the agreement was signed by all parties participating in Eurotransplant.
  2. I arranged an official deal between life insurance companies and the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG):  ‘Covenant Causes of Death’. A special committee composed of representatives of insurance companies, insured persons, patient organisations, and KNMG were in charge of looking into cases of alleged fraud. This was important as it would prevent unjustified refusals of insurance allowances for next of kin – a situation that occurred frequently. I succeeded because I had threatened the insurance companies that the Minister would inform Parliament of their ‘malpractices’.

In your opinion, what are currently the most important health and/or legal challenges that health lawyers in Europe and beyond are confronted with? What should health lawyers in Europe and beyond focus on?

There are nowadays too many important legal challenges. I believe what I have indicated in my inaugural lecture at Utrecht University is still relevant: there is a need for protection of the interest of the patient as a primary objective. Health lawyers should work together more to bring this about through necessary changes in health care systems and policies, rather than having economic interests prevail.

And also: health lawyers must communicate with medical professionals, they have to shape rights of the patient in daily practice. Therefore, health law should be a compulsory part of the medical curriculum.

Are there any other lessons that you would like to share with us when it comes to health law in Europe?

More co-operation between health lawyers in Europe (and, where indicated, beyond) for the best interest of the patient is, I believe, a conditio sine qua non. Additionally, medical professionals and health lawyers should engage in an ongoing dialogue, not only nationally but also at a European level, within the EU context. After all, both professional groups are there for the patient.

*Voices in the Field is a multimedia interview series that shares the stories of experienced professionals in the field of health and highlights the role of human rights in their careers. This project is brought to you by Global Health Law Groningen and IFHHRO, and is directed by Jacquelyn Veraldi and Nicole Rusli.  To find out more about what inspired Voices in the Field, click here.

 

 

 

COP21 and the Right to Health: A Right to a Healthy Climate Deal?

By Marlies Hesselman, University of Groningen, m.m.e.hesselman@rug.nl

This week leaders of the world gather to negotiate and seal the deal on a new climate change agreement. What can we as citizens expect from it? This post argues that we have a right to effective international negotiations and cooperation for the right to health; the right to health requires and dictates effective negotiations for a good, protective and healthy climate deal.

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