Human Rights

First prize winner in 2008 HSPH Student Photo Contest: "A Light," (Maputo, Mozambique) by Oriana Maria Ramirez Rubio

The School has helped broaden the definition of health law to embrace some of the most hotly debated issues of the late 20th century—abortion rights, human subjects research, the legal definition of death, and AIDS discrimination.

The School is renowned for its commitment to human rights. Inscribed on the outside wall of the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights, in the six official languages of the World Health Organization (WHO), is a statement from the WHO constitution: “The highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.” The motto, ­adorning the world’s first academic center to focus exclusively on the practical dynamic between the issues of health and human rights, ­captures the School’s singular dedication to human rights. Since the Center’s founding in 1993, it has become an academic focal point for a broad-based movement uniting public health and human rights.

In 1994, the FXB Center sponsored the First International Conference on Health and Human Rights. But the School’s dedication to human rights reaches further back. Researchers studying the War in Bosnia in the 1990s and the disintegration of the former Yugoslavian republic concluded that the conflict constituted a “war on public health,” with key indicators of population health declining.

In 1960, faculty member Bernard Lown (inventor of the direct-current cardiac defibrillator) co-founded the organization Physicians for Social Responsibility. In 1981, Lown went on to co-found International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.