Book Brief: The Human Right to Health

Jonathan Wolff
W. W. Norton & Company, 2012
ISBN 978-0393063356
208 pages

In The Human Right to Health, Jonathan Wolff explores all angles of the philosophical dilemma at the heart of establishing a human right to health: “On the one hand, the reasons for asserting a human right to health seem overwhelming. On the other, a universal human right to health seems impossible to satisfy in the current conditions of the world.” So begins the task of examining a historical stalemate in order to prescribe a practical path towards a healthier humanity. Wolff examines the criticisms of the concept of a human right to health that stem from both its moral foundations and its practical applications and implications. He provides a detailed case study of the HIV/AIDS epidemic to demonstrate the deeply rooted link between the theory of health as a human right and this global health crisis. Wolff addresses the economic and institutional barriers to the fulfillment of the human right to the highest attainable standard of health for all, but also emphasizes the immense future benefits of investment in human health and provides valuable insights for the formulation of a course of action. The result is “an exercise in cautious idealism” — one that addresses a critical issue through a lens of practicality and optimism.