As vaccine hesitancy is on the rise around the world, apex courts in some countries have confronted the difficult task of striking a fair balance between individual rights and the common good. Against this background, the article discusses the compulsory vaccination cases heard by the Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC). The TCC’s case law illustrates that any interference with bodily integrity must first comply with the principle of lawfulness and its rulings addressed an important shortage of the current Turkish compulsory childhood vaccination policy. The article suggests that the principle of lawfulness in compulsory vaccination cases should not be taken lightly, even if it serves compelling public interests.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted non-coronavirus clinical trials. In the case of life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, this is particularly dangerous, as treatment cannot simply be stopped. In the EU, guidelines for the management of ongoing studies were issued; however, national coordination is still lacking. This article aims to raise awareness on the struggle of managing ongoing clinical trials in the EU during the pandemic. The goals are to bring attention, from a legal and regulatory point of view to the difficulties faced by those involved in clinical research, and to critically position the current hurdles against the backdrop of the existing legal and ethical framework. We investigated the EU guidance and the national approaches of all EU/EEA Member States, and critically discussed selected issues. We argue that the crisis may be an opportunity to foresee meaningful changes in the EU clinical trials framework post-COVID-19.
Covid-19 continues to alter our way of living and dying. Much attention has focused on how to resolve pressing issues surrounding resource allocation and competing public health ethics. While these are important discussions, the legal and ethical dilemmas of treatment decisions remain highly critical. The urgency to ensure that life and death affairs are in order is magnified due to the possibility of becoming infected with Covid-19. However, many people continue to face challenges in organising their future medical care and treatment. This article explores how the pandemic affects advance care planning through the lenses of law and ethics. The range of Covid-19 implications on advance care planning demonstrates a paradigm shift from a primarily elective function to an essential role in healthcare delivery. This renewed appreciation to advance care planning offers the opportunity to support and sustain the important role that it could play during ordinary and extraordinary times.
Recently, the Dutch Medical Doctors Association (Federatie Medisch Specialisten en de Koninklijke Nederlandsche Maatschappij tot bevordering der Geneeskunst) drafted the ‘Covid-19 triage guideline ICU admission’ that has age cut-offs that deprioritise or exclude the elderly. Such an age limit for intensive care unit (ICU) admission in case of a national emergency seems discriminatory, and thus, is it inappropriate to use, or not? The question is whether age in itself can be considered as an acceptable selection criterion.
If globalisation has led to a greater mobility of people specific issues have emerged with the current coronavirus pandemic. Consequently, extreme measures have been taken worldwide to flatten the curb of the virus. From lockdowns to several levels of isolation these measures have worked undoubtedly for some situations. Nonetheless, these same measures have sown chaos in other situations. One good example is surrogacy especially when this practice is undergone overseas, revealing the legal insecurity of the use of surrogacy whether for the intended parents, the surrogate born child or the surrogate mother for whom the risks have heightened.
COVID-19 became a stress-test for many legal systems because it required that a balance be found between rapid action to prevent the spread of the disease, and continued respect for human rights. Many states in Europe, including Ukraine, chose to enforce an obligation to self-isolate. In this article we review what the obligation to self-isolate entails in the case of Ukraine. We also analyse whether such an obligation should be viewed as a deprivation or a mere restriction of liberty, and if it is permissible under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Research has evidenced the various aims of patient-plaintiffs and/or their families in medical negligence litigation, with emphasis frequently placed on the importance of an apology. Drawing on the findings of an empirical study conducted in Ireland, this article contributes to the discourse on apologies in medical negligence disputes. In particular, with reference to the findings of the research and the literature, it discusses components of apologies deemed to be important by patient-plaintiffs and/or their families. The article concludes by arguing that legislative protection for apologies in isolation will not necessarily increase the use or effectiveness of apologies in medical negligence disputes, and a combination of measures is required.
Personalised medicine, digital innovations, and neuro-technologies all offer significant potential benefit for human health and welfare, but also raise complex governance challenges. A variety of approaches have been adopted in the governance of innovative medicines and health technologies, including risk assessment, ethics and self-governance. Recently anticipatory or ‘upstream’ modes of governance have garnered favour. Anticipatory regulation demands a closer relationship between regulators and innovators, to shape the trajectories of the technology. In the EU context, responsible research and innovation has emerged as a key mechanism of governance. This is linked but distinct from a human rights governance which has the advantage of exerting both legal and moral force. What is needed in the healthcare context are governance models which ensure human rights considerations are taken into account from the earliest stages of innovation, to maximise the likelihood that developments are from the outset beneficial and oriented towards protecting ethical values.
The current pandemic outbreak of corona virus SARS-CoV-2 shows the need for comprehensive European cooperation in drug development and the importance of genetic material and sequence data in research concerning this unknown disease. As corona virus SARS-CoV-2 is spreading across Europe and worldwide, national authorities and the European Union (EU) institutions do their utmost to address the pandemic and accelerate innovation to protect global health. In order to be prepared and to be able to respond immediately to serious epidemic and pandemic diseases, the EU has already adopted the Decision No (EU) 1082/2013 on serious cross-border threats to health. The World Health Organization (WHO) has established a global system to collect genetic material and information to protect a global influenza pandemic outbreak. The article describes the current legal landscape under EU and international law.
There are several critical factors that have influenced the (un)success rate of advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) over the first ten years since the EU Regulation 1394/2007 entered into force. This article provides an overview of the current regulatory scenario and outlines the outstanding challenges to be faced in order to further promote research and development of ATMPs and the issues to be considered in the perspective of a possible legislative reform.
The use of machine learning (ML) in medicine is becoming increasingly fundamental to analyse complex problems by discovering associations among different types of information and to generate knowledge for medical decision support. Many regulatory and ethical issues should be considered. Some relevant EU provisions, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, are applicable. However, the regulatory framework for developing and marketing a new health technology implementing ML may be quite complex. Other issues include the legal liability and the attribution of negligence in case of errors. Some of the above-mentioned concerns could be, at least partially, resolved in case the ML software is classified as a ‘medical device’, a category covered by EU/national provisions. Concluding, the challenge is to understand how sustainable is the regulatory system in relation to the ML innovation and how legal procedures should be revised in order to adapt them to the current regulatory framework.
The lack of paediatric medicines, including innovative and advanced ones, is a long-lasting and well-known problem at European and international levels. Despite the existing legal frameworks and incentives, children remain deprived of many kinds of therapy because of challenges faced in appropriately study and tailoring medicinal and other products for them. In this context, the necessity to foster paediatric research addressing unsolved and uncovered issues within a ‘translational approach’ has appeared. This article, after having clarified the concept of translational research in the perspective of the establishment of a European paediatric research infrastructure (RI), will identify and point out ethical, legal and regulatory issues particularly relevant in a children’s rights perspective. It concludes asking for the setting up of an adequate model of governance within a future RI, including adequate and independent ethical oversight and a pluridisciplinary common service dealing with ethical, legal and societal issues relevant for children.
Healthcare systems face challenges due to budget constraints, complex therapies, and new treatments for rare diseases. One of the most successful patient advocacy campaigns of all times was initiated by people living with HIV and AIDS in African countries. Facing industry giants, they won court cases allowing governments to ignore intellectual property rights when the price of a medicine was abnormally high. This led to the approval of the international ‘Agreement on Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights’, which contributed to improving the availability of AIDS treatments for millions of people. Beyond this successful patient advocacy campaign, patient organisations have an important role to play in national discussions on prices of treatments and pharmaceuticals, especially for rare diseases. This article first discusses the specificity of the pricing of orphan medicinal products, and then provides an overview of some of the important actions that can be carried out by patients’ organisations.
This article aims at opening discussions and promoting future research about key elements that should be taken into account when considering new ways to organise access to personal data for scientific research in the perspective of developing innovative medicines. It provides an overview of these key elements: the different ways of accessing data, the theory of the essential facilities, the Regulation on the Free Flow of Non-personal Data, the Directive on Open Data and the re-use of public sector information, and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules on accessing personal data for scientific research. In the perspective of fostering research, promoting innovative medicines, and having all the raw data centralised in big databases localised in Europe, we suggest to further investigate the possibility to find acceptable and balanced solutions with complete respect of fundamental rights, as well as for private life and data protection.
‘Do not resuscitate’ (DNR) imprints on the human body have recently appeared in medical practice. These non-standard DNR orders (e.g., tattoos, stamps, patches) convey the patient’s refusal of resuscitation efforts should he be incapable of doing so. The article focuses on such innovative tools to express one’s end-of-life wishes. Switzerland provides a unique example, as ‘No Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation’ stamps and patches have been commercialised. The article discusses the challenging legal questions as to the validity of non-standard DNR orders imprinted on the human body. It analyses the obligation of healthcare providers to honour such orders, either as an advance directive or an expression of an individual’s presumed wishes, and withhold treatment. Finally, the article addresses the balancing of interests between the presumed wishes of an unconscious patient and his best interests of being resuscitated and potentially staying alive, a dilemma facing healthcare providers in a medical emergency.
For patients, innovations in healthcare can be both a great blessing (when saving people’s life or improving quality of life), as well as a curse (when only few people have access, e.g., because of high prices). Thus, when healthcare innovations are proven safe and ready for application, decision makers have to apply access policies and sometimes face difficult assessments. In this context, health technology assessment (HTA) plays a crucial role at European Union level, forming an evidence-based, transparent basis for decision making through joint assessments. However, pricing and reimbursement aspects are exempt from collaborative assessments, since these are in the responsibility of the EU Member States: according to Art. 168(7) TFEU the ‘organisation and delivery of health services and medical care [… including] the allocation of the resources assigned to them’ remain an exclusive competence of Member States. However, future challenges may require further cooperation.
New treatment options for various cancer therapies appear to be extremely expensive and prices may increase further. The affordability and availability of life-saving medicines is therefore a key issue in the national health policies of all countries. International and European law grant several price-reducing options, including compulsory licensing. Still, countries are reluctant to apply for compulsory licensing and/or other regulatory options to curtail pharmaceutical prices. Why is that? Evaluating the options will support health policy decision-making on safeguarding access to affordable innovative medicines.
This contribution examines deprivation of liberty in Belgian healthcare within the frameworks of the ECHR and CRPD. We develop and apply an ECHR-based framework to demonstrate that it is not the admissions to care facilities based on Belgium’s involuntary commitment law that give rise to the unjustified deprivation of liberty, but those based on representation regimes. This can be remedied by broadening Belgium’s involuntary commitment law. However, doing so would go against a CRPD-based framework, which is incompatible with the ECHR; the former opposes disability-based laws. Building on the right to legal capacity and to liberty, the scope of the CRPD’s approach is uncovered. It is suggested that to reconcile the two frameworks, Belgium’s involuntary commitment law should be abolished, and representation regimes should be changed to avoid (rather than to justify) deprivation of liberty. Although its desirability is open for discussion, this could solve a problem that occurs worldwide.
Although several European law instruments specifically promote the development of orphan medicines, rare disease patients still suffer from an excessive lack of access to orphan drugs. In order to base a claim for equity of access to research benefits, health vulnerability is introduced as a human rights-based public health concept. It represents a potentially valuable and powerful means in European law for rare disease patients to claim for an improved public action to develop innovative orphan drugs, including through the use of novel data-driven technologies such as computer modelling and simulation, as they have the potential to palliate some of the obstacles in the current development process of orphan medicines. The human rights-based approach would be all the more valuable, as it would simultaneously draw attention on privacy aspects of vulnerability for orphan disease patients, especially regarding increased risks stemming from the processing of highly sensitive health data.
Convergence of emerging technologies (e.g. biotechnologies, information and cognitive technologies) has opened new perspectives for progress with regard to human health. However, these technologies also open new possibilities for interventions on human beings, which may be more invasive, and possibly affect and modify individuals. Established practices in the field of biomedicine are also evolving in a way that exerts pressure on existing protective mechanisms. Thus, consideration is required as to whether existing human rights provisions are still fit for purpose or whether there is a need to re-examine, clarify or re-enforce them or even a need to identify new human rights and protective measures. This article gives an overview of the main issues considered by the Committee on Bioethics of the Council of Europe to develop a Strategic Action Plan aimed at ensuring appropriate protection of human rights in the developments in biomedicine, promoting thereby progress for human health.