COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
The International Council of Nurses (ICN)
International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)
World Medical Association (WMA)
Health Professions’ Ethical and Moral Duty
Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the
World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) comprising the International Council
of Nurses (ICN), the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and the
World Medical Association (WMA). Together
we represent three key health professions’ organizations and speak on
behalf of more than 20 million health professionals worldwide.
WHPA notes with satisfaction the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the
Right to Health. We believe that access to health care is a fundamental human
right. At the same time WHPA feels that the right to health is closely linked
with integrity and independence of health professionals to provide care and
treatment for all.
The UN General Assembly Resolution 37/194 spells out the ethical principles
relevant to the role of health personnel in safeguarding human rights. Nurses,
pharmacists and physicians are obliged by their respective Codes of Professional
Ethics to care for all regardless of creed, colour, gender, race, religion
or political affiliation. However WHPA is deeply disturbed that in a growing
number of countries, health personnel are often prevented from providing care,
and are themselves imprisoned, attacked and tortured or even killed for rendering
lifesaving services to those in pain and suffering.
We are concerned that the roles of nurses, pharmacists and physicians are
being undermined and their ethical and professional obligation to care for
all is compromised. It is unacceptable that health professionals and emergency
services are threatened at gunpoint and prevented from reaching those in need
of assistance and care. Such conduct jeopardizes the life-saving work of health
professionals and contravenes international humanitarian law, in particular
the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons
in Time of War of 1949, and the rules governing the conduct of hostilities.
WHPA strongly believes that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the
Right to Health should include:
- Monitoring the role of health professionals working
in situations where either their rights to give, or the rights of their
patients to receive care and treatment are not threatened;
- Appealing for the protection of health professionals when they are in danger
of being victimized, and
- Reporting of human rights violations by health professionals
Finally, the World Health Professions’ Alliance
calls on the Commission on Human Rights, governments, NGOs and others:
- To affirm access to health care as a fundamental human right of all individuals
that should be unrestricted during political upheavals.
- To condemn the denial of access to health care to people based on their
gender, political, geographic, racial or religious affiliations.
- To provide protection for health personnel against reprisals for providing
care to all including detainees, prisoners and victims of torture.
- To support the right of health professionals to practise within their professional
code of ethics, and to ensure their personal safety, freedom from abuse,
reprisals, threats or intimidation.
- To uphold the UN General Assembly Resolution 37/194 on the role of health
personnel in the protection of prisoners and detainees against torture and
other inhuman treatment.
The World Health Professions Alliance brings
together medicine, nursing and pharmacy through their representative international
organisations, International Council of Nurses (ICN), International Pharmaceutical
Federation (FIP) and the World Medical Association (WMA) and represents
more than 20 million health professionals worldwide.
- The International
Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of 125 national nurses'
associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated
by nurses for nurses since 1899, ICN is the international voice of
nursing and works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies
- The International Pharmaceutical
Federation (FIP) is the worldwide federation of national associations of pharmacists
and pharmaceutical scientists. Pharmacists are health care professionals
dedicated to improving access to and value of appropriate medicine use
- The World Medical Association (WMA) is a global federation of national medical
associations, representing the millions of physicians worldwide. Acting
on behalf of physicians and patients, the WMA endeavours to achieve the highest
possible standards of medical science, education, ethics and health care for
further information contact Linda Carrier-Walker Tel : +41 22 908
fax : +41 22 908 0101; email:
Web site www.icn.ch