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UN expert on the right to health ends visit to Poland

14 May 2009

Highlights of the press briefing of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Mr Anand Grover, on 11 May in Warsaw, at the conclusion of his visit Poland

At the invitation of the Government, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health visited Poland from 5-11 May 2009.

The purpose of the mission was to understand, how Poland has implements the right to health. The focus of the mission was on three major issues of particular importance: sexual and reproductive health rights, HIV and harm reduction and drug dependence treatment, and their impact on the enjoyment of the right to health.

The Special Rapporteur was particularly concerned to learn from numerous reports, and personal testimonies, that sometimes doctors, invoking conscientious objection, refuse to perform a legal abortion.

Health providers have a right to respect for their freedom of thought, conscience or religion. The State is obliged to have in place a system, which while respecting the conscientious objector, will ensure unhindered access to safe abortion, where legal.

The Special Rapporteur was also concerned that the law still penalizes for the possession of small amounts of narcotics and psychotropic substances. He was saddened to receive reports that people undergoing treatment have been arrested and detained by officials for possession of methadone. Efforts must continue to make methadone more widely available and accessible.

He commends the efforts of the National AIDS Centre to collaborate with various organizations to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and address issues relating to stigma and discrimination. Such programmes need to be targeted towards the inclusion of marginalized groups in society.

The Special Rapporteur noted Poland’s commendable work in the last two decades to improve the health system as a whole and its commitment to ensure access to healthcare for all. He was impressed by the resolve of the office of the Patient’s Ombudsmen, to overcome obstacles and provide the urgently needed health care services in difficult and dire circumstances, hoping that with the adoption of the new law on patient’s rights ombudsmen, this dedication and devotion of rights of people to the enjoyment of the right to health will continue with even more enthusiasm and rigour.

Despite these concerns, the Special Rapporteur remains convinced that continuing dialogue will promote the understanding of human rights and in particular of the right of everyone, without discrimination, to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. He is looking forward to monitoring the progressive realization of the right to health in Poland in the future.

During the visit, the Special Rapporteur met with the senior Government officials of the Ministry of Health and Ministry for Foreign Affairs, health professionals’ organizations, representatives of the international organizations, and civil society. He is grateful to all those who have given him the benefit of their time and experience

The Special Rapporteur will submit a full report on the visit to Poland to the Human Rights Council in June 2010.

A longer version of Mr. Anand Grover’s statement is available on his mandate's webpage ( http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/health/right/)

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to help States, and others, promote and protect the right to the highest attainable standard of health. For further information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and copies of available reports, please consult the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: ( http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/health/right/index.htm)