EDITORIAL Health in the Courts of Latin America

Special Section on Judicial Enforcement of Health Rights: Focus on Latin America
in collaboration with the O’Neill Institute, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA
June 20, 2018

EDITORIAL Health in the Courts of Latin America
Octávio Luiz Motta Ferraz
To address any complex issue in a large and diverse geographical region of the world is always a daunting and risky task. Latin America is no exception. Despite the semblance of uniformity that the use of the term “Latin American” often misleadingly imparts, the truth is that there is no such thing as a homogeneous bloc of countries occupying the territory running from the border between the United States and Mexico down to Uruguay, plus a few islands in the Caribbean Sea. Not even a single language is shared, let alone a broader “Latin American culture.”
We are dealing with a large region spanning 20 million square kilometers (13% of the earth’s land surface), including very poor countries such as Haiti, middle-income ones such as Peru, Colombia, and Brazil, and relatively wealthy ones such as Uruguay and Argentina. There are democracies at different levels of maturity and stability alongside authoritarian regimes, as well as a diverse range of political-economic systems, from socialist Cuba to economically liberal Chile.[1] Health systems also vary significantly in their structures (from national health services in Brazil to social security and public insurance schemes in Mexico and Colombia), coverage, and quality. As an influential historian has recently claimed, the idea of Latin America should have probably vanished by now. But he also acknowledges that “[t]he term is here to stay, and it is important.”[2]
The topic addressed in this special section—the judicial enforcement of health rights—inevitably reflects this remarkable diversity. Despite some interesting common trends, no “Latin American model” of health litigation emerges, unsurprisingly, from the growing but still limited studies of the past few decades (including those published in this issue). On the contrary, there is significant variety in terms of the magnitude of the phenomenon, its main characteristics, its potential causes, the impact it has on equity and health systems, and the emerging initiatives in reaction to the phenomenon…