Expanding medical knowledge through research, enhancing patients’ well-being through medical treatment, and securing the best available treatment are universal aspirations shared by researchers, health care professionals and patients around the globe. These aspirations are recognized and protected as basic rights by various international instruments.

The Right to Health

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”

The WHO Constitution enshrines “…the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.” WHO further clarifies that “the right to health includes both freedoms and entitlements. Freedoms include the right to control one’s health and body (e.g. sexual and reproductive rights) and to be free from interference (e.g. free from torture and from non-consensual medical treatment and experimentation).

Entitlements include the right to a system of health protection that gives everyone an equal opportunity to enjoy the highest attainable level of health.

The Right to Science

Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 15(b) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognize, among other things, the right to benefit from science and technology and the duty of member states to respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research and creative activity.

The pursuit of scientific knowledge and the ability to benefit from the advancement of science and its applications are thus recognized as human rights by.

The Research and Self Determination Index (RSDI)

To full realize these human rights, states must set up legal and regulatory environments to protect researchers’, health care professionals’ and patients’ freedom to research and access treatment. The Research and Self Determination Index (RSDI) is a research and policy tool for comparative assessment of the degree to which researchers, health care professionals and patients enjoy the right to health and the right science around the globe.

Based on analysis of data on domestic legislation, the RSDI documents cross-national variation of legal regimes and ranks countries based on the degree to which the rights of researchers, health care professionals and patients are recognized.

The RSDI allows readers to better understand the context in which science and medicine advance so that we can further expand the right to science. The intent is to raise awareness of such differences and to foster an evidence-based dialogue among policymakers, scientists, patients, and society.