Saturday, 10 December 2011


The UN marked Human Rights Day...

"UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Human rights went viral in 2011 as people around the world used social media such as Twitter to protest against dictatorships, the U.N. human rights chief said Friday.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a message on the eve of Human Rights Day that power shifted in the Arab world this year as ordinary men, women and even children used Facebook and other social media platforms to stand up to long-ruling dictators.
"Today, as in the past, editorial and financial factors — as well as access — determine whether or not protests, and repression of protests, are televised or reported in newspapers around the world," Pillay said in a statement.
"But wherever it happens, you can now guarantee it will be tweeted on Twitter, posted on Facebook, broadcast on YouTube, and uploaded onto the Internet," she said. "In sum, in 2011, human rights went viral."
The U.N. is making broad use of social media to mark the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Saturday.
Pillay, who is based in Geneva, was at U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday to answer some of the hundreds of questions pouring in via social media platforms about the human rights observance.
Called "30 Days and 30 Rights," the U.N. social media campaign was launched Nov. 10, with a daily posting about one specific article of the Universal Declaration's 30 articles.
The U.N. human rights office said more than 1 million people viewed the Facebook pages, with especially strong interest from cities including Tunis, Tunisia; Giza and Cairo in Egypt; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Jakarta, Indonesia; Bangkok; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Geneva; London and New York.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said human rights belong to everyone.
"But unless we know them, unless we demand they be respected, and unless we defend our right — and the right of others — to exercise them, they will be just words in a decades-old document," Ban said."
Taken from:

Image from : Andy Worthington is an investigative journalist, author, filmmaker and Guantanamo expert. I attended a Guantanamo Bay presentention by Andy earlier this year; it was excellent. Would recommend.

Monday, 5 December 2011

European Day of Persons with Disabilities: Disabilty and Economic Crisis

Update from FRA (Fundamental Rights Agency). The following is taken from

The economic crisis threatens participation and inclusion of people with disabilities

02 December 2011 - This year's European Day of Persons with Disabilities conference, on 1-2 December in Brussels, specifically focuses on the effects of the crisis on people with disabilities. It brings together organisations representing people with disabilities and relevant stakeholders to identify best practice solutions to offset the effects of the economic crisis on people with disabilities. On this important European Day, the FRA underlines that it will continue its efforts to safeguard the rights of people with disabilities.

"In times of crisis especially, people need to rally around and help those most in need. In the past, hard times have posed a serious challenge to the protection of fundamental rights, particularly for vulnerable groups, such as people and children with disabilities who face increased risk of poverty, exclusion and discrimination," said FRA Director, Morten Kjærum. "We must make sure that the advances in rights for people with disabilities are not jeopardised by public spending cuts. Collectively the EU needs to ensure that people with disabilities do not pay the price for the economic crisis in reduced support and services."
The FRA will continue to work alongside its partners in the EU institutions and Member States, and with civil society, including disabled persons organisations, to promote the rights of people with disabilities. Preliminary findings from our latest research on the experiences of people with mental health problems and people with intellectual disabilities in nine EU Member States show that they are deprived of some of their basic rights. Significant barriers to their right to independent living and restrictions on their legal capacity remain. FRA's research underlines the need for policy makers to shape the laws and policies that can best guarantee that people with disabilities do not disproportionately suffer the effects of public sector spending cuts. Lower public expenditure on programmes such as independent living services, personal assistance schemes, education and vocational training, and healthcare threaten the participation and inclusion of people with disabilities in their local community.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Tourism and Human Rights

This post follows from a previous post 'Travel and the Environment'...

'Tourism Concern' at the World Travel Market in London's Docklands (Nov '11):
From Kate Simon (Independent)

Tourism Concern has published a report urging the travel industry to integrate a human rights approach into its business strategies: "Business and Human Rights: Challenges and Opportunities for Tourism." While many players, large and small, are trying to acknowledge their responsibilities towards the environment, far fewer have even embraced the notion of developing a sustainable approach to the rights of workers and communities where they have business interests.

The group wants to get the industry to face the challenges and practicalities of taking seriously their corporate responsibility on human rights. So, the seminar's panel included a representative from the Kuoni Group, a holiday company that is developing a human rights policy and framework for implementation based on the Guiding Principles recently published by the United Nations.

The most important point about Tourism Concern's report is that it understands that solid reasons are needed to persuade the tourism businesses to show respect for human rights. It comprehensively lays out the key human rights issues facing tourism, as well as documenting the adverse publicity attracted by companies where they have ignored these principles.


According to Simon the report ("Why the Tourism Industry Needs to Take a Human Rights Approach: The Business Case",) is vailable at

Ecopetrol (Columbia) and Human Rights

From Richard Collings:

Colombians recently had a rare opportunity to buy a stake in the state-owned Ecopetrol company, but critics complain that it still has questions to answer over its record on human rights and the environment.

The pressure group Human Rights Watch says Ecopetrol, along with its foreign partners, has taken no action to address reports of extrajudicial executions and a massacre committed by state security forces close to their oil installations 10 years ago.

Read more:

Monday, 14 November 2011

Profit before planet

Friends of the Earth Campaign

"I want an environmental policy that supports the planet not profits"

Campaign Action Card reads....

"Dear David Cameron

I am extremely concerned to learn that corporate giants are spending millions funding business lobby groups that influence Government policies, sabotage international agreements such as Kyoto and Copenhagen and undermine credible scientific evidence on the impact of CO2 emissions.

I am therefore calling on you and your government to put the interests of people and our planet first- and not allow yourselves to be bullied by big business. I also urge you to take a leading role in galvanising leaders of developed countries to agree a binding commitment t cutting CO2 emissions by at least 40% without offsets."

Taken from 'PRofit before Planet: Who is making deals with your government" leaflet.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


At the recent BIHR event I was speaking to an individual involved in forensic social care about the role of risk in mental health policy.

Do you think that mental health policy is now so concerned with risk that human rights of offenders in particular are being neglected?

I have started putting together some ideas and will post them very soon. Please do join in the discussion here or

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Corporate Views: Human Rights or Climate Change?

Human rights surpassed climate change as the top priority among companies concerned about corporate sustainability and businesses, according to new research released this week by consulting and research firm BSR.

The significance of water conservation and management issues also jumped dramatically from 2010 to 2011, the research reveals. The data, part of the BSR/GlobalScan State of Sustainable Business Poll 2011, shows that there has been a gradual increase in the influence of human rights concerns as a business social responsibility priority since 2009...

During a briefing about the poll results during the BSR Conference 2011 here, BSR President and CEO Aron Cramer said the research shows that despite the stagnant economic recovery, businesses remain focused and committed to their corporate social responsibility programs.


However, the data also shows that these ideals still sit somewhat outside the full attention of senior management and still need to be more tightly integrated into core operations.

“Businesses’ role in society are going to be undermined if they aren’t taking sustainability and corporate responsibility seriously. … Businesses look around and say, ‘National governments aren’t going to solve this, we’ve got to get on with it,” he said.

Extracts from:

Travel and the environment

Article on Sustainable Travel from 'Travel Mole'.

WTM: 'No-one wants holidays that abuse human rights', travel industry told 

Tourism Concern will today urge the global tourism industry to take a human rights approach to doing business.

Launching a new briefing paper at World Travel Market in London, Tourism Concern director Tricia Barnett will tell the travel industry that integrating human rights into company policies and activities is "the right thing to do".

Briefing tour operators at ExCel, Barnet will tell them that sustainability can only be realised if the development and operation of tourism is embedded upon a respect for human rights, including the rights of marginalised communities in destinations that suffer the negative impacts of tourism.

“No-one wants to go on holiday thinking that they are part of a process that could be abusing human rights," said Barnett. "Of course they would never know. Human rights abuses are
hidden. Who would think that the water that’s filling their pool might mean that locals can’t access clean water for themselves? We hold governments responsible
when they fail to uphold the rights of their citizens. And we hold the travel businesses responsible when they don’t pay due care to respect human rights.

"There is an onus on them to ensure that they are not complicit in rights violations. Our new report highlights new thinking in this area and seeks to begin a dialogue on how
to move forward”

Tourism Concern said the adoption of a human rights approach would align the tourism industry with wider international business consensus. It will present its briefingm Why the tourism industry needs to take a human rights approach: The business case, at WTM at 11am in North Gallery Room 8.

By Linsey McNeill,


Attended one of the British Institute of Human Rights 'On Tour' events this week in Mold (missed the Oxford event). Absolutely brilliant day; lively debate and really engaging. Met a huge variety of people who were all keenly interested in learning more about using human rights in their work.

The BIHR tour is a really great way of raising awareness and educating people about the importance of the Human Rights Act. Human rights are important not only in an international context but in a domestic context too! Wrote a comment to this effect on the Mold 'flag' which is to be sent to Downing Street (I believe); perhaps it, along with the many other comments, will be read by someone in government...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

'Domestic abuse is your business'

More news from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR):

'Domestic abuse is your business'
 A recent conference (held in North Wales) encouraged employers to recognise the impact of domestic abuse on the workplace and to put into place effective domestic abuse policies.
ECHR ‘Who Do you See? Living together in Wales’ research found that 19% of the Welsh population believe that domestic abuse is best handled as a private matter. However, domestic abuse is not a private matter –domestic abuse is your business.

Why is action needed in the workplace?Domestic abuse currently costs UK businesses over £2.7 billion a year.
In the UK, in any one year, more than 20% of employed women take time off work because of domestic violence, and 2% lose their jobs as a direct result of the abuse.
75% of women that experience domestic abuse are targeted at work – from harassing phone calls and abusive partners arriving at the office unannounced, to physical assaults.

What can employers do?ECHR are encouraging employers to take action so that skilled and experienced staff are able to retain their jobs and feel safe and supported in the workplace.

Lots of infor is available at

UK Companies and Human Rights Abroad

From Amnesty International:

We are lobbying for amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

Our researchers have documented serious human rights infringements by UK companies overseas. This Bill proposed by the UK government would make it almost impossible for victims of these abuses to seek justice in UK courts.

Last year thousands of victims of illegal waste dumping in Ivory Coast successfully claimed compensation from British oil company Trafigura. Under the proposed legislation, such cases would be a thing of the past.

To deny these victims justice is to fuel a cycle of impunity. We want to bring about an amendment to the proposed Bill to ensure that where corporate abuses occur overseas, those affected can access justice in the UK.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Corporate Social Responsibilty: The European Commission

"Corporate Social Responsibility: a new definition, a new agenda for action

The European Commission’s new strategy on corporate social responsibility (CSR), part of a package of measures on responsible business (see IP/11/1238), aims to help enterprises achieve their full potential in terms of creating wealth, jobs and innovative solutions to the many challenges facing Europe’s society. It sets out how enterprises can benefit from CSR as well as contributing to society as a whole by taking greater steps to meet their social responsibility. should, in the Commission’s view, have a process in place to integrate social, environmental, ethical human rights and consumer concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close cooperation with their stakeholders."


Human Rights in the Commomwealth

Google news has recently reported that human rights, food security and economic growth will head up the agenda at a major meeting of Commonwealth nation leaders in Australia.

Swaziland and Human Rights Abuses

"THE ACTU yesterday called for the suspension of Swaziland from the commonwealth over its record on workers' rights.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said more than a quarter of the 54 Commonwealth countries failed to allow basic industrial rights, with Fiji and Swaziland responsible for "the worst abuses". Fiji is already suspended, so at this CHOGM meeting the ACTU has turned its focus on Swaziland "for wholesale violations of democratic rights".

The union body called on CHOGM "to ask the UN to stop using Fijian soldiers as peacekeepers around the world, as well as condemn the already suspended Fijian military dictatorship's Essential Industries Decree", which stops workers in key sectors from taking industrial action.

"Workers' rights are human rights," Ms Kearney said. "Without them, people cannot defend their economic and political freedoms. They are as central to democratic societies as they are to free trade unionism.
"India has not ratified the child labour conventions or the conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining.

"Shockingly, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have not ratified one of the two conventions on child labour."

Unionists from Swaziland, Fiji, Malaysia, Zimbabwe and India are attending the Commonwealth People's Forum in Perth."


Silcon Valley Conference and Human Rights

This week technology titans and political activists are grappling with how to make social responsibility and human rights part of the fabric of doing business on the internet.

A Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference will wrap on Wednesday in San Francisco after two days of networking and brainstorming regarding how to ensure that the internet is a tool for human rights instead of a weapon of oppression..."

Google has been prominent in the discussions. Google's director of public policy doesn't think that companies are doing enough to promote human rights around the globe, and that cozying up to repressive governments is bad business.

There is also a good article in the Economist coverning this too:

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Human Rights Conditions in S. Africa Wine Industries

Article in Financial Times, 'Cleaning up the Cape'

Human Rights: Pronouncements by Lord Judge

From the Telegraph article 'Sound Judgements':

The press and the senior judiciary do not always see eye to eye. But where the pronouncements of Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, are concerned, there has been a gratifying meeting of minds, not least over the past few days. Sitting in the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, Lord Judge upheld a majority of the sentences handed out to those who looted and rioted in August, rightly reflecting the public’s demand for severe and exemplary punishment of those involved.
On Wednesday, he delivered a powerful defence of a free press, in a speech welcomed by an industry beset by the twin perils of an economic downturn and the renewed threat of regulation. The Leveson inquiry, established by David Cameron at the height of the phone hacking scandal in the summer, has begun a process that risks worsening the commercial position of newspapers while at the same time undermining their autonomy. As Lord Judge put it, eloquently: “The independence of the judiciary and the independence of the media are both fundamental to the continued exercise and indeed the survival of liberties which we sometimes take for granted.” We could not agree more.
To that end, moreover, another of Lord Judge’s statements this week is of great significance. Giving evidence to the House of Lords constitution commission, he said British courts are free to ignore the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. In making this point, he appears to be at odds with Lord Phillips, the head of the Supreme Court, who takes the view that the Human Rights Act means that “in the end, Strasbourg is going to win”. If Lord Judge is right, then the courts must vigorously defend the laws passed by Parliament; if Lord Phillips is right, then the Human Rights Act must be repealed.

Equality chief urges employers to focus on diversity

Equality and Human Rights Commission chair Trevor Phillips last night called on businesses to embrace diversity as a key business issue, speaking at the launch of the Employers' Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei).

Read the article:

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ford, VW and Toyota: Ethical Business and Human Rights Practices

I posted on ethical investing earlier this week. Yesterday, AOL Autos revealed that Ford, VW and Toyota have been singled out by Calvert Investments - a company known for its focus on sustainable and responsible investments- for praise in its latest recognition for automakers with exceptional environmental, social and governance (ESG) practice.

"What was the criteria for choosing these three automakers? Calvert took into consideration seven environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria: workplace practices; human rights; Indigenous Peoples' rights; governance and ethics; product quality and safety; community relations; and environment.

Among the things the study looked at: fuel economy of a company's whole showroom; development of electric vehicles, hybrids and clean diesel; supporting efforts to mine minerals and precious metals required for auto production in sustainable ways and in countries that have good human rights records; workplace safety and working conditions.

Ford was singled out for exemplary human rights/workplace practices and was ranked number one in the world for all industries in Human Rights on Corporate Responsibility Officer Magazine's 2010 and 2011 "Best 100 Corporate Citizens List."

Volkswagen was praised for the best product safety practices. Toyota has the top environmental track record. "Throughout the global recession, we never lost sight of the environmental and social goals that are key elements of our business strategy," said Dave Berdish, sustainability manager at Ford."
Read the Article at:

Monday, 17 October 2011

Detention of Children: Immigration Removal Centres

An article by Alex Stevenson ( claims nearly 700 children were held in immigration removal centres this summer despite the coalition's pledge to end child detention.

It is reported that a freedom of information request from the Children's Society charity revealed 697 children, nearly a third of whom were unaccompanied, were held at Greater London and south-east ports between May and the end of August. That came despite the coalition's clear commitment last December that it would end child detention, apart from a handful of families involved in border cases.

Voting Rights in Peru

Peru: Voting Rights Victory for People With Disabilities
Peru's decision to restore voting rights to thousands of people with disabilities is an important step toward ensuring their full participation in society. More than 23,000 people with mental and intellectual disabilities had been excluded from the voter registry for the 2011 presidential elections in April and June based on previous government policy....

..."This is an important step to restore voting rights to people with disabilities," Barriga said. "But there is still some way to go to achieving equality and the government should also amend the Civil Code and other laws that undermine the rights and dignity of people with disabilities."

Human Rights Council: Water Supply Protection

The following is from:

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UN) has passed three resolutions that cover water, climate change and toxic waste issues at its 18th session in Geneva and is calling on its member states to take action.
Human Rights Council pledges to improve water supply protection
 According to environmental nongovernmental organisations Green Cross International and WaterLex, the council has taken "great strides" to ensure the national water governance better considers human rights, while also taking into account national concerns over the effects environmental degradation is having on human rights

Each of the resolutions share common concerns raised by its 47 member states and point to water-related issues, such as the impact environmental dilapidation is having on human rights, including access to safe-drinking water, which was passed as a basic human right by the council in 2010. 
The overarching aim of the resolutions is to provide a reminder that international human rights law is central to the international legal system and that all international treaties must be interpreted using it....

...The final resolution calls for the adoption of a "more holistic approach to waste treatment", which covers the life cycle of dangerous substances and waste from production and elimination.

In addition, it said that best practices on the human rights obligations related to environmentally sound management and disposal of waste pollutants, such as sludge, sewage, rubbish and toxic waste is needed as these have been found to damage water supplies.

Ethical Investing

This week is National Ethical Investment Week, an initiative to persuade retail investors that it is possible to make money at the same time as making a difference.

Whilst I do not intend to endorse 'Ecclesiastical' (an ethical investment company) I though I would share this interesting article from 'Mindful Money':

"Ethical investing was long seen as the preserve of churches, trades unions, local authorities and individual investors who were prepared to give up some of the returns that the stock market could offer in order to comply with certain beliefs or simply so they could have a clear conscience.
This approach was seen as problematic because of its negative screening, which excludes stocks in sectors such as armaments, alcohol, tobacco, gambling and pornography from the portfolio. This limiting of the investment universe was bound to reduce returns, particularly at times of crisis when these sectors are seen as more resilient than other parts of the economy.

Investors were also uncomfortable with the focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. These were also known somewhat disparagingly as "non-financial" issues and many fund managers insisted that they were not material to a company's financial performance.
Such considerations had no place in the concerns of serious money managers, the argument went, because their job was to make money for their clients not to make moral judgments about the companies they invested in.

These arguments have become increasingly untenable or irrelevant in recent years, however, and you could say that investment managers are failing in their duty if they don't consider these factors. Did BP's safety lapses in the run-up to the Macondo oil leak turn out to be immaterial to the company's performance? Is the culture that allowed News of the World journalists to hack into the phone messages of murder victims' families having no effect on the performance of News International? On a broader scale, does it not matter to investors in Russia that the country's adherence to the rule of law seems arbitrary at best?

ESG issues affect all businesses one way or another. Customers and regulators are increasingly concerned about issues such as climate change, water shortages, worker conditions and executive pay so companies cannot afford to ignore them. Safety issues are central to the business performance of mining companies, oil and gas companies cannot ignore CO2 emissions and the impact of water shortages affects everyone from drinks companies to chipmakers....

Some say that sustainable investing has no place in a world that remains mired in financial crisis - but it is a very useful way of understanding the problems that we face today and will face in future. "One of the reasons the economy is in such dire straits is because of our attitude to debt, which has not been managed effectively at a corporate or a governmental level," Beloe adds. "The same thing applies with the environment - we are in ecological debt because we are using resources more quickly than they can be replenished."

Ecclesiastical focuses on nine core themes - community relations, labour relations, environment, human rights, urban regeneration, healthcare, education and corporate governance...."

Read the whole article at:

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Human Rights Training

Good article on 'equal and diverse' calling for dignity in health care. I have blogged about this a number of times in the past. It is good to see more attention being paid to this issue.

Equal and diverse have been calling for human rights training to extend to all NHS staff (via twitter). I agree but actually would go further. There is a great need for human rights training to extend beyond the NHS to all working in the healthcare sector. This need, in my view at least, cannot be overemphasised.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Global Mental Health Policies

I 'tweeted' re World Mental Health Day yesterday and there is much in the media concerning mental health today. As it is topical, so to speak, I thought I would post on Mental Health policies today. I have read an excellent article, 'Mental Health Policy and Integrated Care: Global Perspectives' by C. Zolnierek (Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 15, pp562-568) and would like to share some of the insights therein.

The article is largely concerned with the integration of mental health care and primary care. Here, however, in order to encourage general reflection on global mental health policy, I will just pick out a few key passages and some alarming statistics.

"Up to 450 million people worldwide experience mental illness; most of whom do not receive treatment (WHO 2001). In both economically developed (high income) and developing (those which have an undeveloped industrial base and a low standard of living but are undergoing economic development) countries, mental health services have been marginalized, stigmatized and disconnected from mainstream health services (WHO 2001)."

Mental Health and Public Health: "Mental health services tend to occupy a low priority on public health agenda, with significant budget, policy and service implications.In most countries, the mental health budget is less than 1% of the total healthcare expenditure (WHO 2001). Approximately40%of countries worldwide have no mental health policy – 30% of countries in the Americas and 50% of countries in Africa (WHO 2001, 2005).
"The largest institutions housing people with mental illness in the United States include the jails of Riker’s Island, Los Angeles and Cook County (Davidson et al. 2006)."

Mental Health Policy in Developing Countries:"Institutionalization of mentally ill persons in developing countries has raised severe human rights concerns: in India, 28 persons in a mental health facility perished in a fire because they were chained to pillars (Murthy 2004); in Ghana, Africa, over one thousand ‘inmates’ were threatened with starvation because of lack of funds for food (Psychiatric Patients Face Imminent Starvation 2006)."

"Sri Lanka is an island off the coast of India where mental health issues are severe; 5–10% of the population experience mental problems requiring clinical intervention, and Sri Lanka registers the highest suicide rate in the world at 49 per 100 000 (WHO 2002). Yet, the country has only 38 psychiatrists for its entire population of 18.5 million (0.2 per 100 000 population as compared with two per 100 000 in the United States and nine per 100 000 in Europe) (WHO 2005).

Conclusions: "The need to address mental health issues from a global perspective cannot be avoided or denied. In both developed and developing countries, the impact of mental illness is compelling. Strategic approaches must consider existing healthcare delivery networks as well as the social, cultural, political and historical contexts of the people for whom health care is designed."

The importance of good mental health policies cannot be overestimated. Improving services and access to services is not an issue solely for developing countries. The prevalence of mental health disorders in the UK is striking. Last month the Guardian ran an article, 'A third of Europeans are suffering from a mental health disorder in any one year.' 
Research from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology found there is insufficient treatment for mental disorders. "Only 30-52% of European sufferers have any contact with a health professional and only 8-16% are in contact with a specialist. A tiny minority, 2-9%, "receive minimally adequate treatment", said Wittchen."
Zolnierek's article (discussed above) provides one reason why patients with a mental disorder fail to get the treatment they deserve; the global issue of inadequate funding for mental health services. In the Guardian article, David Nutt, professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London,  provides the same reason . "We're under-funded by about 50% of what we should be," he said. "This is something that has to change. One of the big challenges is that if you can get in early, you may be able to change the trajectory so it is not inevitable that people go into disability."
The Guardian also ran an interestigng article yesterday; 'World Mental Health Round-Up'  :

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Shell in the Niger Delta, (post II)

Interesting piece from from Ben Amunwa, campaigner with oil industry watchdog Platform, on Green Economy.  Read at

Follows on from previous post on Shell on 9th October.

International Conference on Human Rights in Seoul

SEOUL, Oct. 9 (Yonhap) -- Some 200 human rights officials and experts from the Asia-Pacific region will attend an international conference in Seoul this week on business and human rights, the organizer said Sunday.

   Participants from about 40 countries and international human rights organizations plan to discuss ways to implement international standards for business and human rights, and the challenges faced by national human rights institutions, said South Korea's National Human Rights Commission.

   The meeting, which opens Tuesday and runs through Thursday, is a follow-up to one held in Edinburgh, Scotland, last October that called for efforts to curb corporate abuses of human rights.

   The participants are scheduled to adopt a Seoul declaration covering strategic action plans and comprehensive cooperative measures on business and human rights.

DNA storage and the Right to Private Life

Theresa May again...

More on Ministers and the Human Rights Row

Clegg steps into human rights row

Labour Immigration Minister's Diary of UK Human Rights (Phil Woolas)

Huhne says sorry to May for revealing conference cat claim was Ukip copy

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Conversation: Human Rights Act

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti and Tory MP Dominic Raab discuss proposals to replace Human Rights Act with a British Human Rights Bill in the Guardian:

EU Extends Sanctions

The European Union is to extend sanctions on Belarus, Iran and Syria next week in response to crackdowns on opposition movements and other rights violations.

The following is taken from

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday will add 16 names to a list of Belarusian officials targeted by asset freezes and travel bans and discuss extending such steps to some Belarusian businesses, the sources said.

The ministers will also add 29 names to a list of 32 Iranians targeted by similar measures due to their association with serious human rights violations.
Officials and diplomats said that on Monday an EU committee would endorse an agreement in principle to add the Syrian Commercial Bank to a sanctions list. The sanctions would involve an asset freeze and a bar on European firms from doing business with it, a step that would take effect later in the week.

Earlier this week a source incorrectly identified the bank in question as the Syrian central bank.
The new sanctions on Belarus will mainly target judges and state lawyers involved in the detention of leading human rights activist, Ales Belyatsky in August, an EU diplomat said.

The sanctions will bring the number of officials in Belarus targeted by EU sanctions to more than 200. Many EU states have been pushing to extend the sanctions to target business entities, but this has been resisted by some Eastern European members, a diplomat said.
European governments have pushed strongly in recent months to step up economic pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the hope of ending six months of violence against anti-government demonstrators. EU officials say the aim is to block the Assad government's access to funds.

Last month, the EU banned European firms from making new investments in Syria's oil industry. The EU also banned the delivery of Syrian banknotes and coins produced in the European Union.
Before that, the EU banned the import of Syrian crude oil and froze the assets of several Syrian companies and entities. The EU has also imposed travel bans and asset freezes on officials involved in the crackdown.

Earlier this week Russia and China blocked a Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolution that could have led to broader sanctions against Syria.
EU officials said the EU was increasingly worried about the use of the death penalty in Iran, including against minors.

The U.S. State Department has said Iran executed about 312 people in 2010, many after trials conducted in secret. In many cases people executed for supposedly criminal offences were actually political dissidents, the department said in a report.
EU sanctions on Iran focus mostly on economic and trade measures aiming to force Iran to slow its nuclear programme, which Tehran says serves peaceful purposes but Western powers believe is aimed at producing weapons.

Corporate Liability in U.S. Courts for Human Rights Violations

Read the article on Human Rights Blog:

Social Care Regulation: Human Rights Approach to Social Care Regulation

The Care Quality Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission have a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate them working together to promote a human rights approach to social care regulation. They have issued some new guidance for CQC inspectors to help them understand and promote equality and human rights compliance in care settings.


Issues re Patient Detention in NHS (1/10/11)

TB Patients:
Recently in the news there was an article concerning the detention of an individual suffering from tb for public health reasons.

I have just read an interesting article on the ethics of legally detaining tb patients at The article is dated (2004) but nevertheless some of the questions raised remain important.

The case concerns a patient named Ms Green. Following investigations it was discovered that Ms Green had tb and as such was a considerable risk to other patients.

'An application was therefore made to the consultant in communicable disease control to obtain enforced isolation under section 38 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. The magistrate agreed to grant this for one month.

Implementing section 38
The act states that 'any officer of the hospital may do all acts necessary' to effect the order to detain an infectious person in hospital. The ethical dilemma was how to carry out this order if Ms Green decided to leave. Nurses may not wish to confuse their caring role with a custodial function.

On a previous occasion, before the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998, a security guard had been employed to implement the order. As the isolation room has a lock we considered if this could be used.

The senior nurse had the following questions:

- Would Ms Green's rights be infringed by locking her door - especially as the ward was not a secure unit?

- Would Ms Green's confidentiality be infringed by posting a security guard at the door - especially if she or he were in uniform, as this would draw attention to Ms Green's detention?

- Would the guard be physically able to detain Ms Green if she tried to leave - considering her infectious state, frail medical condition and the local security services policy regarding hands-on restraint? (This policy regards the hands-on restraint of a patient to be a last resort).

- Would placing a lock on the door constitute a health and safety risk in the event of fire or a similar event?

In view of these concerns, the senior nurse instructed the ward to employ a nurse special to provide one-to-one supervision for Ms Green. This nurse was to encourage Ms Green to stay in her room, accept treatment and to alert other staff if she tried to leave.

Two days after starting this course of action, Ms Green left the ward when the assigned nurse was taking a break and other staff were engaged with patient care.

The senior nurse suggested an urgent meeting with the ward manager, matron, TB specialist nurses and the consultant to discuss developing a protocol for future management if Ms Green returned.

Code of professional conduct
The senior nurse was concerned that she had underestimated the legal implications of this case and questioned her professional accountability.

The Code of Professional Conduct (NMC, 2002) lists seven key values, of which the following were particularly relevant in this case:

- Respect the patient or client as an individual;

- Obtain consent before giving treatment or care;

- Protect confidential information;

- Cooperate with others in the team;

- Act to identify and minimise risk to patients and clients.

The senior nurse was concerned that she may have compromised these as a consequence of the complex nature of this case. She sought further advice from the trust's director of nursing and chief executive (CE).

Ms Green's consultant also e-mailed the CE to put forward his concerns about the hospital's ability to carry out the magistrate's order to detain the patient.

Devising a management protocol
The CE convened a meeting the next day and instructed the trust's solicitor to attend. The consultant, senior nurse, head of security, matron and a staff nurse from the ward were also present at the meeting. There was much debate about the interpretation of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 against the Human Rights Act 1998 (Box 1).

The security team said their permanent staff accessed occupational health services, but many of their staff were employed on temporary contracts and there was no guarantee they were screened and protected against TB.

Also, a guard would be unable to restrain without a clinical 'partner' (a nursing or medical team member able to advise from a clinical perspective). This would therefore require two people to be involved in the detention.

The central theme in the discussion was one of 'proportion' - the action to restrain Ms Green must be proportionate to the risk. A protocol was developed from these discussions and agreed by the CE (Box 2).

All parties involved (including the trust's solicitor) were satisfied with these proposals. The ward staff in particular felt happier.'

In October 2007 A man from Rochdale was forcibly detained at North Manchester General Hospital to stop him spreading TB. see

Detention in cases such of these is compatible with ECHR art 5. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
e) the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants.

Each of these permissible forms of detention depends for its legitimacy on the availability of review. In other words, there must be periodic scrutiny of the legality of the detention by an independent court or tribunal.

The importance of speedy referrals for review can be seen in the case of R v Secretary of State. This case concerned the time delay in referral to the Mental Health Tribinal to review the legality of the detention of the individual held under the Mental Health Act. The Court held that the statutory scheme dealing with the referral of the case of a recalled mental patient to a mental health review tribunal was not incompatible with the patient’s rights under ECHR art 5.

1/10/11: Dementia Patients

Some more about issues of restraint (follows from post on detention of patients with TB):

Laws which which were supposed to offer safeguards to the vulnerable elderly and people with learning difficulties have failed, experts have warned. The safeguards were introduced in 2009 in an attempt to stop the scandal of dementia patients being locked up and restrained in care homes and hospitals, without authority, or any checks that such measures could be justified.

Staff working with the elderly and those with learning disabilities now have to seek legal permission from special panels, if they intend to bring in measures which would reduce their freedom. The panels can only allow a "deprivation of liberty" if a formal assessment allows particular measures, finding that they are in the person's best interests. But a major study has found that the experts making such decisions cannot agree which kinds of cases require such legal protection.

The consultant psychiatrist at South London and Maudsley Hospital NHS Foundation trust said: "This legislation was introduced in order to safeguard and protect potentially vulnerable people; the problem is it is incredibly complex. If the professionals working in this field - including the expert lawyers - can't agree about what constitutes a deprivation of liberty, it is hard to have any confidence that the system is working."

The legal changes were triggered by a test case, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2004 that a hospital was wrong to "informally" detain an adult patient with learning difficulties, and to deny him visits from foster parents, for fear they would take him home. In cases which are deemed to constitute a "deprivation of liberty" a hospital or care home has to have two experts formally assess a person, to judge what level of restriction is required, and the person is entitled to an independent advocate, and right of appeal.

Again this post raises the ethical problem of discerning the 'best interests' of the patient. How is it possible to decide this?

Kent and Medway NHS Trust Recruitment Policy...? (1/10/11)

A ‘fake’ nurse who treated hundreds of patients despite allegedly not holding any medical qualifications has been arrested.

The 46-year, who worked at GP surgeries for more than four years, was responsible for checking hundreds of women for cervical cancer and administering jabs to children.

She had previously worked as a healthcare assistant – a role which does not require any nursing training or even a GCSE. But she managed to pose as a nurse in four surgeries in Chatham and Gillingham, Kent, and one in Essex over more than four years.

Letters have since gone out to more than 1,400 patients within Kent and Medway Primary Care Trust who are thought to have been seen by the woman. This includes more than 300 women who had smear tests to check for cervical cancer as well as 500 children who were given routine jabs for TB, polio, measles, mumps and rubella.

NHS and Chaplains (25/9/11)

I was looking at a hospital chaplaincy board yesterday; all three Chaplains were Christian (two CofE and one Catholic). I have thought about this Christian weighting before but have not really considered it in any depth. Who can patients (and their families/ friends) turn to if they are not Christian? What if they are atheist/ humanist for instance? Do people feel offended or left out? What is the policy NHS on this?

I have done a little reading on this topic this morning and have found that Humanist Chaplains (which seems an oxymoron at first) are becoming more popular particularly in University settings (both Harvard University and the University of Glasgow have Humanist Chaplains). It does seem to me to be sensible and worthwhile to have an individual who can talk to and support patients who hold no particular faith. In 2006 E. Davidson was appointed as a humanist hospital chaplain in Leicestershire. A really interesting interview can be found at:

The right to health is not only the right to the highest possible physical health but also mental health. Belief and well being can sometimes be strongly interlinked and it must be recognised that it is not only people with faith who need support in a hospital or care home setting, those without faith have many of the same needs. I read through the list on the wall, which is intended to give individuals an idea of instances in which they may like to talk to a chaplain. Apart from administering sacraments, all of the other instances could be addressed just as well by a atheist/humanist chaplain.

It is also important to remember that whilst human right and anti-discrimination legislation protect the right of individuals to to hold religious beliefs, it also protects the right of indidividuals to other philosophical beliefs similar to a religion and the right to have no religion or belief. I believe that those who fall into the latter two categories should not be deprived, as they currently are, of access to an individual with whom they can discuss issues as those of faith would discuss with a Chaplain.

I'm just about to read an article I have found in the Freethinker (2009) on this very topic....

Clinical Negligence and Legal Aid (14/9/11)

Lord Justice Jackson has said recently that Legal Aid should remain for clinical negligence.

See article:

Age Discrimination: Human Rights of Older Persons (31/8/11) (9/9/11)

Some good news...

"After a long time of neglect, there is an increasing awareness and recognition of the human rights of older persons within the international human rights community. Several stakeholders have issued a call for a ‘UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons’. In a recent article in the Human Rights Law Review, entitled ‘The Human Rights of Older Persons: A Growing Challenge’, Frédéric Mégret does an excellent job assessing these developments. Mégret shows that the rights of older persons should be approached through a human rights framework and that this is an issue which human rights lawyers cannot afford to ignore any longer.

So far, the European Court of Human Rights has not exactly produced a rich case law on the human rights of older persons. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that the European Convention and its Protocols are silent on the issue of rights for the elderly (in contrast to the European Social Charter (see article 23) and the Charter on Fundamental Rights of the European Union (article 21 and 25)). However, this might be changing. There is definitely potential in the Court’s legal analysis to mainstream the rights of older persons. This blog post focuses on that potential through the lens of two cases that were handed down in July: Heinisch v. Germany and Georgel and Georgeta Stoicescu v. Romania." From:

The case of Heinisch v Germany is terrifically important as it concerns an instance of whistleblowing (which has been discussed in a previous post) in a care home. The judgement states:
In societies with an ever growing part of their elderly population being subject to institutional care, and taking into account the particular vulnerability of the patients concerned, who often may not be in a position to draw attention to shortcomings in the care rendered on their own initiative, the dissemination of information about the quality or deficiencies of such care is of vital importance with a view to preventing abuse.” (par 71)

This is important because it not only draws attention to the fact that elderly patients may be vulnerable but also recognises that they may not (for various reasons) be at liberty to make a complaint themselves.

For a much fuller discussion please see:

Disabled People in Employment: Comment by Phillip Davies MP (31/8/11)

I was shocked and appalled to hear about the comment Phillip Davies MP made during a Parliamentary debate earlier this year. The following is from the recent newsletter of the Equality and Human Rights Commission:

Mr Davies had argued that disabled people 'could' be paid less than the minimum wage.

In the debate, Mr Davies contended that that employers often chose non-disabled people over disabled people when recruiting, since they were forced to pay the minimum wage to all potential employees and therefore would not take on a disabled candidate who 'cannot, by definition be as productive in their work' as a non-disabled candidate who would be 'more productive and less of a risk'.

He went on to argue that disabled people should therefore be able to offer to work for less than the minimum wage if it would help them get a job.
Read more at:

What do you think?


 BBC Radio Shropshire
Yesterday, BBC Radio Shropshire (Jim Hawkins' Programme) gave air time to an individual who held extremely prejudiced and discriminatory views towards disabled people. Of course, freedom of expression is crucial to a democratic society, but some forms of extreme expression, particularly that which incites intolerance between groups should, I think, be curtailed.

It saddens me that a reputable station could encourage this type of (what I consider to be totally unacceptable) participation,especially given the recent case of the horrific torture and murder of Gemma Hayter. Disabled people can be vulnerable and it is important that they have advocates who can fight for their rights to be protected. It did not seem to be appreciated yesterday that disability includes not only physically disabled but also anyone with, sensory impairment, learning disability or mental health problems, and thus the airing of such prejudice could cause great harm. What is more, the target audience of Radio Shropshire is specifically 50 years and older; a cohort which includes many vulnerable and disabled people.

Convention for Rights of Disabled People (31/8/11)

Equality and Human Rights Commission Update:

The Commission is carrying out a range of activities across Britain to fulfil its role as one of the designated independent bodies which promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the Convention in the UK. We have produced a briefing document to communicate our work and to encourage participation and involvement.

Health Authorities and Equality Policy (31/8/11)

From the Equality and Human Rights Commission:

New health commissioning bodies should learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and take steps to meet their obligations under equality legislation to make a real difference to health outcomes according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Commission undertook a study assessing the performance of a sample of Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts in England with regard to the race, gender and disability equality duties. It found that many bodies were not taking sufficient action to address the diverse needs of people in Britain and to protect the rights of disadvantaged groups.

The Commission concluded that without a major re-think by new health bodies on how they tackle discrimination and advance equality some groups will continue to experience poorer health. For example:
  • Men are less likely to report health conditions than women, leading to worse implications for their health;
  • Infant mortality is higher than average among Black Caribbean and Pakistani groups;
  • Muslim people tend to report worse health than average; and
  • Women report higher incidences of mental health conditions.
The Commission’s recommendations include a requirement that health authorities collect data to ensure they have the right evidence base on which to make decisions, and provide guidance to the people making decisions about commissioning.

Until April 2011, health bodies in England were subject to equality duties regarding race, disability and gender. This meant that public authorities had to take steps to tackle discrimination and promote equality amongst the people they serve. The duties were replaced by the public sector equality duty in April 2011 which covers a wider range of groups such as age, religion or belief and sexual orientation.

Andrea Murray, Director of Policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
“The introduction of the new equality duty and the reorganisation of the NHS is a good time for health bodies to re-think their approach to equality. Our research shows that many health organisations see equality as a box ticking exercise, and few were able to show they have used the duties to make a real difference to the health outcomes of particular groups.

“Acting upon the equality duty will help health organisations to develop effective services that meet patients’ needs, improve the health of the population and tackle disadvantage faced by particular groups.”

Cameron's Social Policy Review (30/8/11)

David Cameron has chaired the first meeting of the social policy review launched in the wake of the riots earlier this month. The prime minister announced in the aftermath of the disturbances that an internal review of every government policy would take place to ensure they were bold enough to fix a "broken society".

Ministers from the Home Office, the work and pensions department and the communities and local government department are taking part in the review, which is expected to last until October.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said it would look at whether current government plans and programmes are "big enough and bold enough to deliver the change the country now wants to see".

The spokeswoman said the policy review would "see whether it addresses the demands that were made by the public in the wake of the public disorder. It's to do that check on where we are in terms of existing policy development and whether it continues to meet the demands that have been made."
The meeting set out the process of the review, which will look at the wide range of issues around what the government terms the "broken society".

The spokeswoman added: "It looks at the whole set of issues regarding broken society; it could be schools, family policy, parenting, communities, human rights, health and safety, cultural, legal, bureaucratic problems, services the government provides and how they are delivered and the signals that government sends about the kind of behaviours that are encouraged and rewarded."

Haiti Lacks Gender Policy (30/8/11)

A Human Rights Watch report, "Nobody Remembers Us: Failure to Protect Women's and Girls' Right to Health and Security in Post-Earthquake Haiti," documents the lack of access to reproductive and maternal care in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

According to Klasing, the government should adopt a strong gender policy across ministries and programmes to ensure women's rights are considered in all matters.

"It also should take steps to make sure women and girls at public facilities understand what programmes and services are available for free and necessary to continue treatment," she said.

"With almost 260 million dollars earmarked for health care, no woman should have to give birth on the street," Roth said. "Women and girls have a right to life-saving care, including in adverse circumstances."

Read more:

A new Human Rights Watch Report has been released this week. It focuses on the inadequate healthcare care for women and girls in particular, in Haiti.

More than a year after Haiti's devastating earthquake, women and girls are still facing gaps in access to healthcare needed to stop preventable maternal and infant deaths, the report says.

It calls for the government to do more when it comes to protecting women and girls from violence, and ensure that they receive all the information they need. "Attention to human rights should be an essential part of Haiti's recovery plan," Roth said.

Read more:

Mersey NHS Trust: Human Rights in Healthcare Conference (26/8/11)

have just discovered a recent conference report (May 2011) on Human Rights and Healthcare held by the Mersey Care NHS Trust (Liverpool). The Trust has recently set up a Human Rights in Healthcare website as part of their Human Rights in Healthcare programme. According to their webpage, their aim is to 'promote a human rights based approach in health and social care.'

The conference report can be found at:

The slides used for the background presentation are also available:

Single Sex Wards in the NHS (21/8/11)

Some positive news! It appears progress is being made...

Further falls in the number of patients kept on mixed-sex wards has prompted ministers to suggest single-sex accommodation is now the norm in the NHS in England. In July there were 1,126 breaches - a drop of 90% since December 2010. More than two thirds of hospitals reported zero breaches with the north east becoming the first region to report no breaches at all.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "The NHS has done a fantastic job getting to grips with this. Single-sex accommodation is what people can now expect." They apply to all trusts from acute hospitals to mental health units. Only intensive care and A&E are excused. Read more:

I remember the Health Minister, back in 2008, stating that 'single sex wards were not possible.' I've found the 2008 article at Here is an extract:

"The only way we're going to have single-sex wards within the NHS is to build the whole of the NHS into single rooms. That is an aspiration that cannot be met."

In the article, Kate Jopling, of the charity Help the Aged, said:

"Dignity in care should be paramount, and privacy goes hand in hand with this. Sharing mixed sex wards remains an ongoing concern for many older people who may find the experience distressing and an inappropriate infringement of their privacy, and therefore dignity.

Of course, as Ms Jopling is speaking for Help the Aged, her focus is on older people, but the points she makes about the importance of dignity and privacy, and the distress mixed wards have caused (and continue to cause in some areas) extend to all age groups. I am, therefore, pleased by this news (even if it has taken the government far too long to implement it...)


N.B. For all its failings, the Daily Mail has consistently fought to bring to an end the NHS practice of mixing men and women patients.

Convention for Elimination of Discrimination against Women Case (21/8/11)

In the first-ever maternal death case to be decided by an international human rights body, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women established that governments have a human rights obligation to guarantee that all women in their countries—regardless of income or racial background—have access to timely, non-discriminatory, and appropriate maternal health services. Even when governments outsource health services to private institutions, the committee found, they remain directly responsible for their actions and have a duty to regulate and monitor said institutions.

Today’s decision is a groundbreaking victory that will benefit women worldwide, says Center for Reproductive Rights, a global legal advocacy organization that filed the case with the United Nations.
Read more at:

UK Bill of Human Rights (15/8/11)

There is an intersting article on the proposed Bill of Rights on the UK Human Rights Blog and some thought-provoking comments in response to Adam Wagner's article in the Guardian on this topic:

It seems to me that much of this concern about the 'dangers' of the Human Rights Act 1998 is unfounded.

The Act was defined as inter alia giving further effect to rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) BUT it is subject to limitations and controls:

- Does not grant the courts the power to strike down domestic legislation that is inconsistent with the Convention
- Parliament is free, if it chooses, to enact legislation that is not compatible with the Convention
- Act is not entrenched against appeal.

This extract from the conclusion of R v Mental Health Tribunal (2001) gets to the point:

“The United Kingdom has of course been signatory to the European Convention since its outset in 1951. Since 1966, it has granted the right of individual access, and there have been a considerable number of cases against the United Kingdom before the court. We now have incorporated the Convention into our law by the Human Rights Act of 1998. But, as it seems to me, the view that that makes a sea-change is an erroneous one. We have had, over the years since 1951, to comply with the terms of the Convention. Sometimes, as decisions of the court have made plain, we have not succeeded in doing so. But for the most part, the practices and procedures carried out in this country do comply with the terms of the Convention, and it is wrong to approach the matter with a view that there may be a breach. Rather, as it seems to me, the approach should be that the court will not accept a breach unless persuaded and satisfied that there is one.”

There is, generally within the UK, overriding compliance with Convention rights. Therefore, whilst the HRA assists access to these rights (at least procedurally) it is actually a fairly superfluous piece of legislation. As long as we are party to the ECHR, the rights we have protected now will remain protected, whether through a British instrument (the HRA or the proposed Bill of Rights), through the judicary or the court in Strasbourg.

Accountability re Maternal Health in Africa (15/8/11)

During the past week or so the spotlight has been placed on the state of maternal health in South Africa. There has also been lots of coverage on Twitter helping to raise awareness of this important issue.

The most recent Human Rights Watch newsletter ran an item entitled 'South Africa's Failing Maternity Care' ( The experience of Abeba, and other women interviewed by HRW, makes for extremely disturbing reading. According to teh recent HRW report the ratio of death from childbirth are four times more likely than ten years ago. This is a shocking statistic, especially considering that one of the UN Millennium Development Goals is the improvement of maternal health. There is so hope, however, as HRW suggests that measure to improve oversight and accountability in public hospitals and among health workers could reverse this trend.

This item has also been covered by Times Online, 'Healthcare system fails pregnant mothers'. It makes the important point that:
"Women do not know their rights, and often don't know that they can complain because of that the health system doesn't benefit from this information."

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that plans to overhaul the healthcare system were passed last week and new posts had been created:
"We need health workers that respect the basic rights of patients, and these new posts will provide competent people who will be responsible and accountable for instances of abuse."

Whistleblowers in Healthcare (11/8/11)

I mentioned the brilliant item on the One Show re whistleblowers in a previous post. The gentleman interviewed by the presenters made some important points concerning the safeguarding of patients. He argued that:
- doctors and nurses have an ethical duty to act if they think their patients are being harmed
- managers should not ignore whistleblowers
I completely agree. He also provided some guidance as to where concerns should be taken:
- feedback to the hospital
- contact the care quality Commission
- contact the patients association

This is all well and good. But do we not just return again to the question: what about the people raising the concerns? Will they have to worry about their job security? 'The Small Places' has raised an other interesting point on Twitter:

"Another perverse effect of closing Rose Villa may be to discourage whistleblowers: all staff would lose their jobs when services are closed."

The whole idea of a 'need' for 'whistleblowing' at all seems wrong to me; something is wrong at a fundamental level. What do you think?

Abuse in Healthcare Institutions (4/8/11)

There is an excellent post on UK Human Rights Blog which discusses the potential of Article 8 (esp. privacy and autonomy) in cases in which individuals have been mistreated/abused in healthcare settings.

Local Council Provision of Overnight Care (29/7/11)

This post follows my tweet earlier this month regarding the case of Ms McDonald. After having her case heard in the Supreme Court on 6th July 2011, Ms McDonald lost her battle against Kensington and Chelsea Council to provide overnight care. Earlier this month, John Wadham, Group Director, Legal, at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

'We are disappointed with [the] ruling which is a significant setback for people who receive care in their home. Ms McDonald is not incontinent, however this judgment means she will be treated as such...Local authorities will now have greater discretion in deciding how to meet a person's home care needs and will find it easier to justify withdrawing care. This means that older people's human rights to privacy, autonomy and dignity will often be put at serious risk.

Indeed, I agree that it is crucial to ensure that basic human rights to privacy, autonomy and dignity are protected, particularly with respect to elderly and vulnerable groups. It is totally unacceptable for anyone to have to, as Ms McDonald puts it, 'lie in urine for hours' when they are continent and could easily be assisted to use a commode. Age UK are correct in pointing out the "extremely adverse and devastating consequences for many thousands of older people if other councils take similar decisions to save money". (

However, (to play the devil's advocate for a moment), given the governmental resource constraints is it reasonable to expect a local authority to provide overnight care for all who need it in their catchment area? Could or should alternative arrangements be made?? (We are all aware of the care homes crisis!) How do/should local authorities balance the needs of individuals with the broader needs of society as a whole? These are difficult questions. I would like to hear your thoughts...

Performance of the Health Sector in Meeting Public Sector Equality Duties

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has recently released a new report, entitled 'The Performance of the Health Sector in Meeting Public Sector Equality Duties.' This report examines performance on the former race, disability and gender equality duties by Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts in England. These duties were replaced by the new public sector equality duty in April 2011.

The research found that although progress was made on delivering the race, disability and gender equality duties, significant work still needs to be done by health bodies to ensure that their efforts lead to identifiable changes to health outcomes for different groups.

The report is accompanied by a policy paper with recommendations as to how health bodies can meet their obligations under the new equality duty. Effective implementation of the new duty can assist healthcare providers in reducing health inequalities, creating a more effective workforce, and improving the life chances and wellbeing of millions of people in the UK.

Taken from:

Tied to Chairs, Sedated or Locked Up (23/7/11)

This story ran on Thursday in the DM. The article opened with:

"Thousands of restraining orders are being taken out on dementia patients and the alarming practice appears to be increasing, official figures have revealed....This can include locking residents in their rooms overnight, sedating them or even tying them to chairs – all of which, critics said, denies them their basic human rights."

I agree with the critics. Such treatment is indeed an infringement of human rights and I am appalled by the extent of such practices. While some may protest against this, arguing that it can be extremely difficult to look after patients with dementia (and somehow attempt to justify such approaches), it is important to stress that the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is an absolute right which means that it cannot, under any circumstances, be justified. Precisely because of the difficulties and complications in caring for people with dementia, is is extremely important to ensure that they are treated with dignity and their right to autonomy is respected. This blog has noted in the past that under staffing in care homes is often a root cause of poor care provision but we must continue to stress that it is absolutely unacceptable that patients/residents should suffer due to failings in the system.

The DM, (despite its lack of support for the HRA), has actually been doing some good work to highlight the widespread neglect and maltreatment of the elderly in hospitals and care homes through its Dignity for Elderly Campaign (See link above for more info).

It is also worth mentioning an article in today's Telegraph which links directly into the above story, entitled, 'five dementia sufferers die everyday from 'chemical cosh' drugs. According to Beckford, the Health Correspondent, "[m]any more hospital patients and care home residents suffer strokes triggered by the antipsychotic medications they are given to keep them sedated." The data used in this report is from 2009; I wonder if statistics are higher today given the recent rapid decline in the care system...

Full story can be read at:

NHS Reforms (20/7/11)

Health Tourism (20/7/11)

An article in the Daily Mail highlights an interesting phenomenon they call 'health tourism'. Earlier this month they ran a story on a Nigerian mother who flew to Britain when she learned she was pregnant and had quintuplets which cost taxpayers an estimated £200,000. More recently they have run a similar story in which they ask:
When the NHS is hard pushed to pay for chemotherapy for cancer patients and is struggling to provide decent maternity services, why on earth should it have to ...deliver the babies of mothers with no connection with this country?

I would be interested to know the opinion of the DM on the UN Millenium Development Goal 5, to improve maternal health. Every year more than half a million women die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth - 99% of which are in developing countries. In light of this, I wonder whether they would still object to the delivery of this Nigerian woman's quintuplets in the UK?

Morphine: bureaucratic hurdles and the global war on drugs (19/7/11)

It appears some extremely commendable research into the hidden human rights crisis of medical pain has been undertaken by student of journalism in the University of British Columbia. Graduate students travelled to India, Ukraine and Uganda to investigate how countries around the world deal with suffering patients. Their findings show that "more than half the countries in the world have little to no access to morphine, the gold standard for treating medical pain." What is more, they have discovered that "[u]nlike so many global health problems, pain treatment is not about money or a lack of drugs, since morphine costs pennies per dose and is readily available." Rather it is due to "bureaucratic hurdles, and the chilling effect of the global war on drugs" which are the main impediments to access to morphine.

The full story can be read at
More information about the film "Freedom from Pain" produced by the UBC can be found at

Incidentally, Human Rights Watch produced an article on this issue at almost exactly the same time last year, entitled, "Pain Relief: A Human Right." Lots of useful information along with reports on the state of pallative care in various countries is available from HRW at