Understanding how human rights law affects nursing practice
In the first of a series of articles Richard Griffith, Senior Lecturer in Health Law at Swansea University, discusses the fundamental nature of human rights and their importance to nursing
The Human Rights Act 1998 gave direct effect to the main provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights (Council of Europe, 1950) and has had considerable influence on the provision of health care in the UK at both strategic and practice levels. The fundamental nature of the rights and freedoms bestowed by the 1998 Act demand that nurses inform their practice with a clear understanding of the main provisions of the Act and how they apply to health care.
Following the Second World War the European Convention on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (1950) (the Convention) was created by the Council of Europe to formalise the relationship between individuals and the country they are in. The main purpose of the convention was to limit a state's interference with the rights of citizens.
The UK became an early signatory to the Convention in 1950. However, enforcing human rights was a difficult and protracted process because the UK parliament had never incorporated the Convention into domestic law. Individuals who felt their human rights had been breached had to seek redress in the European Court of Human Rights based in Strasbourg, a process that took on average 6 years (HL v United Kingdom (2004)).
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