Legalities and Covid-19

Protection of the freedom of expression and access to critical information

Under international human rights law, governments have an obligation to protect the right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive, and impart information of all kinds, regardless of frontiers. Permissible restrictions on freedom of expression for reasons of public health, noted above, may not put in jeopardy the right itself. Governments are responsible for providing information necessary for the protection and promotion of rights, including the right to health.

The United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights regards as a “core obligation” that “education and access to information concerning the main health problems are provided in the community .”

” A rights-respecting” response to COVID-19 has shown now to have been seriously breached with an increasing practice of a global censorship of social media and diverse news channels as related to dissemination of factual information surrounding Covid-19.

Protection of the freedom of movement and of personal bodily integrity in context of natural law

Natural law is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature, and based on values intrinsic to human nature that can be deduced and applied independent of positive law (the enacted laws of a state or society). According to natural law theory, all people have inherent rights, conferred not by act of legislation but by “God, nature, or reason.” Natural law theory can also refer to “theories of ethics, theories of politics, theories of civil law, and theories of religious morality.”

Because of the intersection between natural law and natural rights, natural law has been claimed or attributed as a key component in the Declaration of Independence (1776) of the United States, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) of France, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) of the United Nations, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights (1953) of the Council of Europe.

Articles of the Treaty of the European Union
Article 2

The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, therule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

Article 3 : 1-4

(ex Article 2 TEU)Articles of the Treaty on of the freedom of movement and of personal bodily integrity in context of natural law
  1. The Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples.
  2. The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal
    frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate
    measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and
    combating of crime.
  3. The Union shall establish an internal market. It shall work for the sustainable development of
    Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market
    economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and
    improvement of the quality of the environment. It shall promote scientific and technological advance.
    It shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection,
    equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the
    child.
  4. It shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States.
    It shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage
    is safeguarded and enhanced.
Article 3 – of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – Right to integrity of the person
  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity.
  2. In the fields of medicine and biology, the following must be respected in particular:
  • the free and informed consent of the person concerned, according to the procedures laid down by law;
  • the prohibition of eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at the selection of persons;
  • the prohibition on making the human body and its parts as such a source of financial gain;
  • the prohibition of the reproductive cloning of human beings
Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights

Since the 1970s, the field of bioethics has grown considerably. While it is true that bioethics today includes medical ethics issues, its originality lies in the fact that it goes much further than the various professional codes of ethics concerned. It entails reflection on societal changes and even on global balances brought about by scientific and technological developments. To the already difficult question posed by life sciences – How far can we go? – other queries must be added concerning the relationship between ethics, science and freedom (read more here).

Ethical Considerations and The Nuremberg Code

The Nuremberg Code is one of several foundational documents that influenced the principles of Good Clinical Practice (GCP). Good Clinical Practice is an attitude of excellence in research that provides a standard for study design, implementation, conduct and analysis. More than a single document, it is a compilation of many thoughts, ideas and lessons learned throughout the history of clinical research worldwide .

Several other documents further expanded upon the principles outlined in the Nuremberg Code, including the Declaration of Helsinki, the Belmont Report and the Common Rule. 

Although there has been updated guidance to Good Clinical Practice to reflect new trends and technologies, such as electronic signatures, these basic principles remain the same. The goal has always been—and always will be—to conduct ethical clinical trials and protect human subjects. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.

This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This latter element requires that before the acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject there should be made known to him the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means by which it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonably to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person which may possibly come from his participation in the experiment.

Literature

A Preliminary Human Rights Assessment from Bonavero Institute of Human Rights

Sweden and COVID 19: A Constitutional Perspective

The rule of Law and Covid Related Technologies , British Institute of International and Comparative Law