No freedom until we are equal

Human rights are commonly understood as being those rights which are inherent to the human being. The concept of human rights acknowledges that every single human being is entitled to enjoy his or her human rights without distinction as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status (Gostin et al, 2011). Human rights are an extremely delicate subject that leaves me feeling enthusiastic. Patient’s rights are of my interest as they are the one’s that are often ignored. It is tragic what happens to patient’s in health care facilities, I will concentrate on health since that is the place I’ve seen this unfold, not that human rights are not being undermined in different fields. Above all else, patients don’t know anything regarding their rights, yes there are charts everywhere throughout the hospitals or clinics and even the complaints box, however does anybody at any point read those patient charts hanging over the walls? Does anybody at any point fill out a complaint against a health care worker when they feel violated?

There is this “power” subject that we have been discussing in class quite a few times and I feel that it plays a major role in patients not laying complaints against health workers. We as health workers have all the power over our patients, this can be seen in the way we address them, take a look at them and even simply interact with them, we are in a place of power. This results to some patients being scared to ask about their health care or whatever it is they don’t understand. You find that patients do not understand their condition, not on the grounds that they are moronic or oblivious, but rather on the grounds that nobody ever discloses their condition to them in the language that they understand (layman’s terms). We are often too busy diagnosing them and acting intense to a degree that when another health provider treats them like human, they appreciate it a lot. Why is every other person so inhumane? What makes us better than our patients other than the knowledge we have in our areas of expertise?

I believe that violations of human dignity are not to be dismissed merely because of the fact that they are buttressed by local belief system or long-standing tradition (Farmer, 1999). There are 3 experiences and observations relating to this topic that i would like to share and argue as they stood out the most for me. I have seen a circumstance where a health provider gossips about their patient, essentially revealing all confidential information that is intended to remain among them. I have likewise observed a patient being yelled at (before everybody including other patients) by a health provider for missing their Anti Retro-viral drug appointment. To me that individual has officially disclosed that patient’s status. Disclosure is frequently the first step in the struggle against exemption. To be honest I did not do anything about these instances, yes I was outraged but I never took any action. In future though, I believe that the best thing to do would be to first speak to the colleague in private, advise them against doing such and also raise the issue of patient’s and human rights, making them aware that they are violating the patient’s rights mainly the right to human dignity and confidentiality and that this is against the law, if this persists I would then take another action by reporting the colleague to whoever is in charge of the clinic or hospital.  Now let’s discuss the issue of different clinic cards and isolated waiting area that HIV positive patients sit at in clinics? That to me is a violation of their human right; we all realize that there is this stigma against HIV and AIDS. People would preferably die than talk about their HIV status because they fear that in doing so, they will be treated differently. It is particularly more terrible in townships and rural areas, now imagine what they experience after sitting in that isolated waiting area holding that different clinic card. From now on I am not going to sit and watch patient’s rights being disregarded, if nobody else can stand firm, I will be the first. I am going to fight for the humans who have their rights stolen from them every day at our work places.


Farmer, P. (1999). Pathologies of power: rethinking health and human rights. American Journal Of Public Health, 89(10), 1488.

Gostin, L., Gruskin, S., Brennan, T. (2011) Health and human rights. Harvard Journal, 01(01), 9.


One Reply to “No freedom until we are equal”

  1. Hi Asanda. You have raised valid points in this post. I myself sometimes use my “power” to get some of my patients to do the work. Not in a bad way though because sometimes patients can be difficult and especially when you are a student. I like that you mentioned that in future you will fight for the powerless because that shows you have the qualities of becoming a good practitioner. Your references also align with what you are saying. Thank you for this piece.



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