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Medical Neutrality and the Right to Health

Effective protections for health care workers under international human rights law

May 2017

Under international human rights law, states are obligated to ensure effective protection for health care workers at all times, and to provide unencumbered access to emergency health care for all. These obligations remain in force regardless of any context of conflict, civil unrest, emergency, or alleged criminal activity. Interference by a third party, including punishment or harassment of health care professionals for providing medical treatment in accordance with international medical ethics, is prohibited by international law. This is also known as the principle of medical neutrality. Where medical neutrality is undermined or attacked, international law requires authorities to investigate.

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