Patients' Rights in the 21st Century

Course Status: 
CEU credits: 
ECTS credits: 
Academic year: 
Academic year: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
2 Nov 2011 - 2 Dec 2011
Co-hosting Unit(s) [if applicable]: 
Department of Legal Studies
Judit Sandor

This course analyzes the theoretical and legal foundations of patients’ rights. Although bioethics and international human rights have developed separately, some aspects of bioethics have recently been interpreted along human rights principles. The interrelation of the two disciplines gives us the opportunity to embark upon an exciting journey into a new legal and ethical domain.

By now patients’ rights have been incorporated into most of the national legal systems. However, the previously defined rights are often challenged by the new advances in biomedical sciences and the reforms of the national health care systems. This is a field of concern which touches upon peoples’ most intimate interests. It deals with the matters of human reproduction, and end-of-life issues; biodiversity; genetic testing, biobanks, and genetic data storage. Bioethical norms also seek to regulate the conduct of scientific research; the access to and safety of technology solutions; the availability and quality of medical services, essential medications, and other preconditions for health. New questions constantly test the frontiers of patients’ rights; for example, does right to self-determination include the right to decide over someone’s own biological samples? How, if at all, should we attempt to influence the future biology of the species through the use of genetic knowledge? The doctrine of informed consent is largely an outcome of principal court decisions. Issues related to frontiers of life, euthanasia and abortion, embryo research and transplantation have captured public interests more than other medical decisions. Therefore this field is rich in court cases, laws and public health policies. We shall analyze cases and texts in a comparative manner but we shall also look at the limits of law in this field.

During the course the students will analyze normative texts and judicial cases that contain elements from both the human rights and bioethics perspectives. The Reader and the attached bibliography shall provide the basic literature for further studies. The course will develop legal and policy skills in the students who will have the opportunity to discover a new and rapidly developing field of contemporary patients’ rights.