A New Paradigm: Health as the Moral Core of Human Rights

Chapter 9 of “Pathologies of Power” focuses on how health serves as a human rights but has not been enforced by the countries of the world. The Declarations of Human Rights has been ignored since it was made. What is the point if the governments are not going to follow through. Governments are the source of the problem here people are receiving health care. The governments have set up structural violence and genocide on groups in their nation without fear of being penalized by anyone. By denying access to individuals/ charging them for life saving treatments people who do not have access or money must suffer. Farmer suggests the way to fix these health disparities is making making health-care as a core necessity. He highlights a plan of addressing the poor and making education an important factor when addressing health awareness. People should be allowed the chance to live a healthy life since it is a staple in what is means to be a human. By ignoring this issue people are implying that the people suffering and unaware are not humans because they happened to be born in a certain country. Genocide against children in poverty is an ongoing problem that is not intentional but is occurring everyday. From lack of water and proper nutrition theses children suffer, when children are the most sacred thing on earth. There needs to be more worldwide campaigns for health-care for everyone. no matter how poor.

I have heard of many programs going to places like Mexico and Africa where college students provide health-care and health awareness to people in underdeveloped countries.

Farmer also addresses NGO’s and other groups as unsuccessful in the politics,and no positive outcomes. Here is some information about the major international health organizations –>

Also here is an article about The Current Insufficiency of Global Health NGOs —>


Rethinking Health and Human Rights

In the chapter “Rethinking Health and Human RIghts” in “Pathologies of Power” by Paul Farmer, Farmer states that reconceptualizing healthcare as a human right  is a paradigm shift. It’s not completely realistic and not completely idealistic. Despite the Declaration of Human Rights, many governments still ignore the rights outlined in those documents. Farmer advocates for the participation of citizens and is highly skeptical of large organizations such as the government or private foundations.

Farmer also discusses how we rely too much on government and how government is sometimes (or usually) the source of structural violence. This aspect of the chapter relates to how governments violate human rights through genocide… too many times the actions of other government spill structural violence into other countries. For example, the Vietnam War spilled over into the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos. Economic conditions worsened and eventually the guerilla forces known as the Khmer Rouge were able to evacuate the capital city by lying that Americans were going to bomb the city and thereafter inflict genocide that claimed 2 million.

Although not absent, “genocide” seems to be rare nowadays. On the other hand, you could say that there is a present-day “genocide” in which the health of the people are being violated. Many times governments fail to provide for the people and even catalyze conditions that lead to health disparities.

Learn more about Paul Farmer and health as a human right:


Health and Human Rights


Chapter nine, of Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power deals with health and human rights. The chapter really digs deep into health rights, buy giving many different examples from Haiti, Russia, Chiapas and analyzing it at the local, government, and international level. I used to think that crimes would occur because there were no treaties or policies to stop the exploitation of people. If the laws that prohibit the treatment of, for example, women in Mexico already exist, the real question is what can we really do to make the countries follow the laws and policies. What can we really do to force countries to follow them? Like Paul Farmer mentioned, the U.S. is one of the countries that really pushes for capital punishment yet it does not support the implementation of the International Criminal Court (Pg. 243).

There’s a connection between health and human rights and genocide. If people are not deemed worthy enough to be given health care—such as the Russian prisoners, or not be seen as humans to have any human rights—such as experimentation practices on political prisoners in North Korea), then a dehumanization process occurs, and that dehumanization process can easily turn into genocide or even gendercide.


Article on gendercide (modern day slavery of women):

Health and Human Rights

Paul Farmer’s final chapter discusses how health care is an economic and human right, and that HIV/AIDS has become a major catalyst to the modern health and human rights movement. A group of displaced people in Haiti become infected with the virus after working as prisoners in Port Au Prince, unfortunately,  individual suffering is ignored when attention is only given to what will gain one more power. Paul Farmer describes that healthcare should be treated as a Human Right and should be addressed through the integration of treatment and prevention.

Without attention paid towards human rights, many cultural minority groups have the possibility of becoming victims of genocide. Many incidences, such as the Native America genocide, Nazi Imperialism, Aboriginal genocide and more did not focus on the human rights and unforgiving power structure against the minority, exoticizing them as sub-humans.

The director of the Genocide and Human Rights University program discusses a course in which one can take to educate themselves and be more aware of the social aspects that lead to genocide, and how we can prevent it. It will help one discuss the psychological effects for the survivors and how we can understand the framework of it to save millions of other lives.

“Rethinking Health and Human Rights”

Although Paul Farmer’s book “Pathologies of Power” dissects how poverty and lack of basic human rights has direct effects on health, the last chapter gives the reader hope as it discusses an agenda to alleviate the issues that aggregate the relationship between human rights and global health. Farmer tries to track the root of health discrepancies by saying society should make health and healing the symbolic core of this new agenda. Since most individuals find nothing wrong with promoting health and healing, rallying around these themes is something people would find no trouble in supporting. Farmer also emphasizes that we must make provision of services central to the agenda, in other words, we must make changes based on the advice of the sick and poor rather than blindly  following the policies implemented by those in power. Farmer’s agenda for improving health in relation to rights also includes establishing new research agendas that are not biased against the poor, assuming a broader educational mandate by spreading health awareness, achieving independence from powerful government and bureaucracies so that the voices of the people and for the people are heard, and securing more resources for health and human rights.

Thankfully we live in a time in which the connection between global health and human rights is becoming ever more clear. There has been a shift in the way people think about medicine and more of a push towards social equality. In a rapidly advancing and globalizing world, we have the tools to start changing the health system so that human rights and health around the globe are protected. Although genocide is not yet a stark reality of the past, a movement towards Farmer’s agenda ensures that we analyze the social, economic, and political factors that produce conditions in which genocide is able to take place. Thus, the faster we act upon the issues highlighted by Farmer, the faster we can take away the justification for an action as inexcusable as genocide.


For more information on Paul Farmer:

North Korean Prisoners (Extra Credit Blog)

In this class I’ve been thinking a lot about power structures, genocides, and the vulnerable. Woman and children tend to be the most vulnerable, but in a way prisoners are as well. They are stripped of their rights and isolated from the rest of the population for the crimes they have committed. But what happens when the crimes is that a person isn’t loyal enough to their country. How can we have concrete evidence when all the evidence is hearsay and is similar to that of a modern day witch hunt? In North Korea, there has been much speculation of crimes committed against prisoners. There has even been talk of human experimentation on the prisoners. One of the biggest prisons, is Camp 22 in Haengyong, and is thought to hold about “50,000” political prisoners and their families. One man who worked as head of security at camp 22 was asked in an interview if he felt any remorse for the experimentation and eventual death of the prisoners, and even children; he replied “I had no sympathy at all because I was taught to think that they were all enemies of our country and that all our country’s problems were their fault. So I felt they deserved to die.” Even with testimonies such as this one, and from others who have escaped, North Korea still claims that there is no harmful treatment of its prisoners and that no human experimentation has occurred.


More information on Camp 22:

Genocide in the Dominican Republic (Extra Credit Post)

It’s been years since I’ve read or watched the movie “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez. In it, we see the Mirabel sisters fighting the militaristic government, which resulted in their deaths. I was young when I read the book, and though the book mentioned that people were disappearing, I never considered that what was really happening was genocide. In my young mind, the Holocaust was the only genocide that ever occurred, and that was stopped after WWII.

In 1937, dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the massacre of “15,000 to 20,000 Haitians,” and when news came to light about what he did, he was made to pay  reparations of “$750,000, of which $525,000 were paid… of the 30 dollars per victim, only 2 cents were given to survivors.” The number is absurd, and the reparations are a slap in the face to those that lost family and loved ones. In my opinion, allowing Trujillo or any other person to get away with killing thousands of people with nothing more than a slap on the wrist shows to public that people lives, in this case, Haitian lives are not important, and that no real repercussions will happen if the Haitian population is exploited or exterminated.

More information on Dominican Republic massacre: