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:



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