The Right To Health

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With Human Rights Day coming up on the 21st of March, a lot of focus is being placed on the rights of individuals and groups in South Africa as they have been defined in the Constitution. One of the most fundamental rights is the right to Health.


According to section 7(2) of the Constitution, “the State is obligated to respect, protect, promote and fulfill” all the rights in the Bill of Rights. In the case of the right to health, these include:


The obligation to respect the right, obliges the State to refrain from denying or limiting access to health care services to any one. These should be available to all on a non-discriminatory basis. The obligation to protect include adopting legislation and other measures to ensure equal access to health care facilities provided by third parties; to ensure that privatization does not constitute a threat to the availability, acceptability and quality of services provided; and to control the marketing of medicines by third parties. The obligation to promote requires the State to disseminate appropriate information; foster research and support people to make informed choices. The obligation to fulfill requires that the State facilitates and implements legislative and other measures in recognition of the right to health and adopts a national health policy with detailed plans on how to realize the right. The State is also obliged to provide the right for people in disaster situations or in dire need when an individual or group is unable, for reasons beyond their control, to realize that right themselves with the means at their disposal.


These legislations seem quite complicated at face value, but in terms of how they affect the lives of ordinary South Africans, there are many factors that contribute to the functioning of the healthcare system. The right to health of all South Africans means that there needs to be easily accessible healthcare in all regions, including government hospitals and clinics. The right to healthcare also includes the right to choice in terms of private and government funded medical funds.


By Wesley Geyer

Creative Writer for ATKA SA

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