By Silvia Serrano Guzmán
On July 4, 2023 the Constitutional Court of Colombia handed down a landmark decision on one of the most difficult dilemmas faced during the COVID-19 pandemic: the rationing of intensive care in situations of scarcity. Although the need for prioritization was a reality almost globally, many countries had no such regulation in place, which frequently led to the adoption of fragmented and discriminatory triage protocols.
The Colombian case reinforces that human rights and public health are not mutually exclusive. Importantly, this is reflected in the Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights & Public Health Emergencies (2023). Though the Principles did not exist during the litigation of the case, they will be of use in similar instances going forward, both for States working to develop human rights-compliant public health measures, as well as for courts reviewing such measures.