An End to PFI/PF2- Implications for the Right to Health

By Amy Dickens

On 29thOctober 2018, Philip Hammond delivered a Conservative Budget declaring an end to austerity and outlining plans for a post-Brexit economy. Amidst his speech was the announcement that the government will finally end the Private Finance Initiative (PFI/PF2) on the basis of ‘compelling evidence’ that it does not deliver value for money or transfer risk to the private sector, as proclaimed by the Conservatives and their political predecessors.

Hammond also stated the government’s commitment to honouring its existing contracts. What the Chancellor omitted is the scale of the legacy PFI leaves behind; the 700 existing PFI and PF2 deals will cost the taxpayer an estimated £199 billion by the 2040s. These staggering costs, and the political opacity surrounding PFI, have attracted expert criticism and public outrage. I argue, however, that the PFI saga amounts to more than just an administrative scandal; it is an egregious violation of the rights of UK citizens. Continue reading

Right to health impact assessments needed before using Big Data

By Carmel Williams

Big Data is transforming health care in multiple ways, from patient management to diagnostic and treatment methods. These new technologies are changing the health and public health landscapes, offering improved public health and clinical care. However, careful oversight of proposed uses of Big Data technologies is needed to protect against discrimination and increasing health inequities. In this blog, I propose that governments should undertake human rights impact assessments, including assessments that integrate right to health impacts, before using Big Data driven technologies in health. These assessments provide a structured approach to examining multiple ways in which the right to health could be at risk, including, but moving beyond, privacy issues.

Examples of the use of Big Data in healthcare include personalised medicine where a patient’s treatment is tailored to their genetic and environmental profile, DNA sequencing (which results in vast amounts of data stored in bio banks), forensic, genetic or medical databases, including data from public health studies and clinical trials – and all of which can be re-purposed for various technical inventions. The artificial intelligence (AI) industry in health care is booming, with growth rates in economic terms of around 40% per annum, reaching over $US6 billion by 2021. All this depends on access to huge data sets.

The concerns about the use of patient data, whether for patient management or clinical purposes, have focused predominantly on privacy and breaches of security.  Although this is crucially important, here I examine broader social and economic rights issues, through the use of an abridged right to health framework (see the Oxford Textbook of Global Public Health, chapter 3.3, new version due in 2020).

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Beyond privacy: the right to health implications of data sharing partnerships in healthcare

By Amy Dickens and Linsey McGoey

In November 2015, the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust transferred over 1.6 million identifiable patient records to DeepMind, an artificial intelligence subsidiary of Google. Earlier that year, the Trust had privately signed an agreement commissioning DeepMind to develop an early warning system to detect Acute Kidney Injury (AKI). The resulting smartphone application, called Streams, is now in clinical use across the Royal Free and will soon be rolled out to other NHS Foundation Trusts.

When news of the deal broke, privacy advocates expressed astonishment at the private agreement. They were outraged by the Trust’s willingness to share confidential patient data without consent and other necessary protections. The Information Commissioner’s Office subsequently launched a year-long investigation into the deal, concluding in July 2017 that the Royal Free had violated the 1998 Data Protection Act. Despite the ruling, DeepMind has since partnered with multiple NHS Trusts. The company’s CEO, Mustafa Suleyman, has declared his ambitions to expand into the NHS and develop a digital platform that could support artificial intelligence technologies in the future.

Criticism of the DeepMind-Royal Free partnership has centred around privacy rights and data protection issues. While privacy concerns are important, our research suggests that a narrow focus on privacy has thwarted attention to related human rights concerns, particularly around the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Continue reading

Essex Autonomy Project at the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

In response to the work of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Committee), a worldwide reform processes of mental health and mental capacity legislation has begun. In advance of the United Kingdom’s review by the Committee in 2017, the Essex Autonomy Project (EAP) will hold a side event at the 15th session of the Committee on 31 March, 2016, 9am at Palais Wilson.

By Risa Tominaga

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Abortion Rights in Turkey exist in theory, but in practice?

Living in a dystopia, real or surreal?

Some of you may have read the book called “When She Woke” by Hillary Jordan. For those who haven’t had a chance to read it, it is a feminist dystopia. It describes a very dark future for women: at a future time in America where abortion is illegal on the grounds of religion and male-dominated morals, women who have abortion are incarcerated in a special kind of prison. Red-pigmented ‘chromes’ are injected to turn them red as punishment. As part of the punishment and stigmatization, their red skin persists for a time after they are released from prison which makes them vulnerable and increases their suffering. The book narrates a surreal future for women. But apart from the red chrome dye, isn’t the surreal story narrated in the book familiar and real to many women around the world? Aren’t many women stigmatized just because they make decisions about their own body? Aren’t they forced into unsafe and illegal abortions due to strict moral and legal codes?

By Ozlem Hangul, MA Theory and Practice of Human Rights 2011-2012, Women’s Rights Consultant and Trainer. Linkedin- Ozlem Hangul

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