Health is an individual’s state of physical, mental and social well-being. It is important for every person, irrespective of age, gender, nationality or other factors.

Health is a complex concept with a variety of dimensions which include physical, mental (psychological), social, emotional and spiritual aspects. Physical, psychological and mental conditions determine an individual’s quality of life.

Right to health

The right to health is a fundamental human right, but should not be understood as the right to be healthy. The State cannot guarantee that all of its citizens will be perfectly healthy, as health is influenced by various factors outside the control of the State. Therefore, it is more accurate to describe health as the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The State has obligations to respect, protect and fulfil people’s right to health. For example, the State must ensure that every person can:

  • choose and contact a doctor
  • get proper medical care
  • receive information about their health
  • file a complaint if their health rights have been violated, and so on.

Right to health & Human rights

The right to health is closely related to various human rights: the right to a private and family life, non-discrimination and equality, liberty and security of a person, access to safe and potable water and adequate sanitation, healthy occupational and environmental conditions, and access to health-related education and information.

About this Guide

The aim of this Guide is to explain the meaning of the concept of “health” and what the right to health is, how it is protected by the State and how it can be exercised by different social groups. This Guide also explains what rights patients have, such as the patient’s informed consent, privacy, the right to choose medical treatment, etc.

You will find out how different actions can interfere with and violate your human right to health and to whom you should complain in such situations. With this knowledge, you will feel more confident when making decisions concerning your health and will be able to identify possible violations of your rights. This theme will be extended with more sections over time.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education