n South African Law Journal - Placing human rights at the centre of public health : a critique of : notes

Volume 126, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-2503
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2177



State responses to the threats posed to the public health by communicable diseases often involve the restriction of individual liberties (for example, through isolation, quarantine or coerced medical treatment) with the aim of protecting the health of the general population. Whereas such responses are sometimes justified and necessary, they can tend to be overly authoritarian and restrictive, especially in the context of public hysteria and associated systemic over-reaction to sudden, lesser-known or widely feared epidemics (see Michael Kirby 'The never-ending paradoxes of HIV / AIDS and human rights' (2004) 4 LJ 163 at 167; Leslie London 'Confinement in the management of drug-resistant TB: The unsavoury prospect of balancing individual human rights and the public good' (2008) 1 11 at 12). They also always involve the limitation of fundamental individual rights, most commonly that of freedom and security of the person. Accordingly, public health law presents a textbook example of the balancing of individual rights against social objectives.

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