Sydney Law School class hosts special guest
Sydney Law School Professor Larry Gostin’s “Global Health Law” class took an interesting turn on Thursday afternoon, July 16, with a “guest lecture” from the Honourable Michael Kirby, former Justice of the High Court of Australia.
Joined also by visiting Professor Glenn Cohen from Harvard Law School, this segment of Professor Gostin’s course was a public forum entitled “Making the world a better place: health, human rights, and global justice.”
Reflecting on several decades of experiences as a global health advocate, Michael Kirby reviewed the contribution of the late Dr Jonathan Mann and the response of the World Health Organisation and other UN organisations to the HIV epidemic during the 1980s and 90s.
Contrasting this with responses to the 2014–2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Mr Kirby discussed the need for both personal and institutional leadership at the highest levels, and the challenge of achieving a voice for affected communities (including through their participation in global governance efforts).
Mr Kirby also highlighted the importance of Jonathan Mann’s central insight: that in circumstances where medicine has little to offer and where health systems are weak, effective prevention relies heavily on a collaborative approach based on respect for the human rights of those most at risk of infection, and those most likely to transmit it.
Mr Kirby also called attention to the need for a realignment of health rights and intellectual property rights—a central issue in the report of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, of which he was a member.
Prompted by questions from the audience, the panel discussion ranged across a number of issues, including the relative importance of a human rights approach to disease prevention, the opportunities for civil society, and the critical importance of institutions.
Professor Gostin called for an integrated approach to addressing the Ebola epidemic, drawing upon national healthcare systems, regional action, and global institutions and frameworks.
Professor Cohen pointed to the lack of alignment between global health needs and the stronger incentives for pharmaceutical manufacturers to invest in “face creams and Viagra.”
Although Ebola virus created dread in many communities, it is not clear in Professor Cohen’s view that this will provide sufficient impetus to re-construct broken health systems in the poorest countries of the world.
Globalisation remains a potent economic force, and progress is likely to be incremental. Nevertheless, the panel ended with optimism, with Mr Kirby suggesting that love is the shared value that underpins all human rights, and calling for an inclusive, collective response to infectious disease control that recognises our shared humanity and mutual responsibility to promote health for all.
University of Sydney Law School Juris Doctor
The Sydney JD comprises the core legal subjects required throughout the world for professional accreditation coupled with the study of a wide range of elective subjects which allows advanced learning in both specialized fields and law in general. Teaching and learning methodology includes a wide range of formats to allow individual choice, a deep understanding of the law, independent research and the development of the skills and ethics inherent in modern professional practice.
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