Last updated:

Patients as victims

Sahrawi midwife measures the blood pressure of a woman after giving birth, in a post-partum visit at her haima, in the Sahrawi Refugee Camps

We intervene on behalf of patients where they have been prevented from accessing health care or where there are infringements on patients’ right to health.

The right to health

The right to health is protected by a number of binding international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, which states: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services."

For more information on what the right to health means for doctors and health care workers, see 'The right to health: a toolkit for health professionals'.

  • Nicaragua

    Prevention of access to healthcare by security forces

    In July and October 2018, we wrote to the Foreign Secretary and to the Nicaraguan Embassy to highlight our concerns about interferences with patients’ rights to medical treatment in Nicaragua after learning that physicians had been pressured to prioritise care to specific groups and, in some circumstances to refuse care to anti-government protesters.

    The rights of the injured and wounded to appropriate medical treatment are set out in a range of binding international laws, treaties and declarations. The actions of the Nicaraguan security forces in preventing the injured from seeking or receiving treatment are a gross violation of international law.

    The letter also raised concerns about interferences with medical impartiality.


    Further reading

    Read our letter to the Nicaraguan Ambassador, Guisell Morales-Echaverry - October 2018

    Read our letter to the Nicaraguan Ambassador, Guisell Morales-Echaverry – July 2018

  • Gaza

    Prevention of access to healthcare

    In August and November 2018, we wrote to the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt and the Israeli Ambassador to raise concerns about increasingly severe restrictions placed by Israeli authorities on patients seeking to travel outside Gaza to access life-saving treatment.

    Since 2007, when Israel imposed a land, air, and sea blockade, Gaza has effectively been closed. As a result, sophisticated diagnostic and therapeutic medical services of the kind required to treat illnesses such as cancer are unavailable. This means patients are often required to travel outside Gaza to access treatment. 

    Withholding access to healthcare and treatment contravenes both medical ethics and international law, particularly the right to health as enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 12) and Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


    Further reading

    Read our letter to the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt - November 2018

    Read our letter to the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt - August 2018

  • France

    BMA condemns the plight of refugees in Calais

    On 13 July 2016, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, wrote to the French Ambassador, Sylvie Bermann condemning the recent decision by the French authorities to prevent aid convoys from entering the refugee camp in Calais to deliver basic supplies.

    Highlighting the plight of the refugees currently stranded in Calais, Dr Porter called on the French authorities to allow unrestricted access to those organisations who wished to provide aid to this highly vulnerable group of people.

    Read Mark Porter's letter to the French Ambassador - July 2016

  • Iran

    Mistreatment of prisoners, prevention of access to healthcare

    According to Amnesty International, detainees at Raja’l Shahr Prison are routinely deprived of access to necessary medical care and treatment.

    The Islamic Republic of Iran has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and is committed to its provisions, including article 12 recognizing “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. Additionally, Rule 24 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) provides that “Prisoners should enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community, and should have access to necessary health-care services free of charge without discrimination on the grounds of their legal status”.

    Read our letter to the Head of the Judiciary in Iran, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani - February 2017

  • Uganda

    Anti-homosexuality law in Uganda

    The BMA has written to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urging him to withdraw new legislation which means that homosexuality now carries a life sentence in Uganda.

    Homosexuality was already a crime, with adults found to have had same-sex relationships facing seven years in prison. Under the new law those found guilty of same-sex relationships would automatically be sentenced to life imprisonment.

    Punishments have also been extended under the new law to people involved in 'promoting' homosexuality.

    Read the BMA's letter to the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni - March 2014