Book Brief: The Right to Health at the Public/Private Divide

The Right to Health at the Public/Private Divide
Colleen M. Flood and Aeyal Gross
Cambridge University Press, 2014
ISBN 9781107038301
492 pages

By Health and Human Rights communications assistant Gabrielle Tyson

Published April 7, 2015 

The Right to Health at the Public/Private Divide broaches a subject central to the current American and global political debate: the right to health care. Flood and Gross put together a comparative study of 16 nations, divided into categories of health care systems which are public/tax-financed, social health insurance/managed competition, or mixed private/public. This allows readers to understand the differing role of rights in the health systems of a diverse group of countries, and the impact that litigation and legal action can have in the context of those systems.

Each country is analyzed based on its current health care system, and the legal instruments used to regulate access to health care. Examples of health litigation are provided for each country; the focus of each national investigation is the “equity gap” and either effective or unsuccessful use of litigation in closing that gap. In some cases, litigation is shown to widen the equity gap.

The editors conclude that the vast number and variety of legal cases must make courts consider resource constraints and the repercussions of questioning government decisions. However, it is also the duty of a court to consider the equity and fairness of health systems and to continually scrutinize actions which would reduce access to health care.

Judicial analyses of each nation’s interpretation of the right to health, paired with the editors’ thoughtful investigations make this book a compelling read for those interested in the intersection of health care and human rights.