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Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME)

New Publication: Economic sanctions, healthcare and the right to health

Federico Germani, Julian W. März, Caroline Clarinval and Nikola Biller-Andorno Published «Economic sanctions, healthcare and the right to health» in BMJ Global Health.


  • Sanctions are increasingly used by national states and the international community to put economic and political pressure on target countries, with the aim of effecting a shift in foreign or internal policies.

  • In this paper, we argue that sanctions should never be imposed on healthcare products—diagnostic, curative or preventive—or on any other good or service that can be reasonably expected to entail direct negative consequences on access to healthcare in the sanctioned state.

  • In addition, we propose the establishment of a supranational task force to review and monitor sanctions to ensure they do not violate the right to health, or to mandate existing organisations to monitor the effects sanctions have on healthcare systems.

  • We discuss these issues considering key ethical and human rights aspects, including justice, vulnerability, proportionality and responsibility.

  • We discuss how responsibility should be shared between states or organisations imposing the sanctions, and states targeted by sanctions.

  • Sanctioned states should make efforts to mitigate effects of economic sanctions by prioritising spending in the interest of their citizens’ health.