Unpredictable catastrophic events and developments, such as epidemiological outbreaks or armed conflicts as well as events related to climate change, can severely impact the lives of individuals, families, and communities worldwide. States must anticipate and be prepared to address them. In this context, there is a duty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, most notably the right to life, the right to the protection of health, and to ensure respect for human dignity.
Access to healthcare, in times of crisis, is a critical component in ensuring the protection of health, as referred to in the Council of Europe’s Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (Oviedo Convention). Promoting equitable and timely access to healthcare and combating health disparities created by social and demographic changes, are strategic priorities of the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Human Rights in the fields of Biomedicine and Health (CDBIO).
The CDBIO is working to support the efforts of member states to ensure that everyone, without discrimination, is offered a fair opportunity to access healthcare. This includes action to prepare Recommendation on equitable access to medical treatment and equipment, and a guide to health literacy with particular emphasis on persons in vulnerable situations.