Hand with a red napkin washes the chalk board.

A European Cancer Survivors’ Right to be Forgotten?

By Hannah van Kolfschooten and Mirko Faccioli

There are currently over 12 million cancer survivors in Europe. Due to improving cancer screening methods and medical treatment, this number is expected to grow every year. Former cancer patients often face multiple forms of discrimination throughout their lives. Many commercial companies make long-term cancer survivors “pay twice” – while having similar life expectancies as their peers, they are denied access to key services because of their former cancer status.

To combat this unfair practice, some European countries are establishing a “cancer survivors’ right to be forgotten,” also referred to as the “oncological right to be forgotten.” Italy’s parliament just passed a law to establish the right. Patients’ rights organizations and EU institutions are pushing for a “European cancer survivors’ right to be forgotten.” This post outlines the purpose of such a right and flags potential challenges in its adoption.

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EU flags in front of European Commission in Brussels.

Surrogacy and the Workplace: Maternity, Paternity, and Parental Leave in the European Union

By Marianna Iliadou

In surrogacy, a woman (surrogate) gestates a child for a (different/same-sex) couple or single person (intended parents [IPs]). This can generate issues in the workplace: for example, IPs may be unable to secure leave after the birth of the surrogate-born child, as maternity leave is traditionally linked to gestation and childbirth. In this blog post, I will examine maternity, paternity, and parental leave within the European Union (EU) and its applicability to surrogacy. While EU maternity leave policy regarding surrogacy has not seen developments since 2014, recent developments concerning paternity leave bring the topic back to the fore.

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Vaccine and syringe in front of EU flag.

The European Commission’s New Compulsory Licensing Proposal: A Step Forward?

By Sarah Gabriele

On April 27, 2023, the European Commission proposed new legislation that would allow companies to make drugs without the patent holder’s consent in emergency situations. The proposed legislation constitutes a step forward in the European Union’s effort to harmonize patent law in the Union, after the establishment of Unitary Patents and the European Patent Court.

In its proposal, the EU Commission acknowledges that intellectual property rights, and, in particular, patent rights play an important role in access to medicine, especially during public health crises. The COVID-19 crisis demonstrated how the need for protecting and incentivizing innovation clashed with the need to make products widely available. To solve this tension, the Commission recognizes that patent law already offers a solution: compulsory licensing.

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Wooman doctor using tablet with creative glowing digital heart futuristic interface hologram. Medicine, cardiology and future concept.

The Council of Europe’s Artificial Intelligence Convention: Implications for Health and Patients

By Hannah van Kolfschooten

The Council of Europe, the most important international human rights organization on the European continent, currently is drafting a Convention on Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law (AI Convention). The Convention aims to protect fundamental rights against the harms of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and is expected to become a global leading convention, as non-European states such as the United States (U.S.) are considering becoming signatories.

As health care is one of the top industries for AI, the forthcoming AI Convention will have important implications for the protection of health and patients. This post gives a brief outline of the background, scope, and purpose of the AI Convention. It goes on to flag common human rights issues associated with medical AI and then touches upon the most important health rights implications of the current text of the AI Convention.

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Interior of an Italian pharmacy. Pharmacist looks for medicines to sell to the customer. Puglia, Italia - 29/01/2009.

Falling Revenue Means Pharmacies in Italy Aren’t Keeping up with Other EU Countries

By Gianluca Ceci and Sarah Gabriele

In 2021, the total revenue of Italian pharmacies dropped by 4% compared to 2015, despite Italy being the fifth largest country in the EU for pharmaceutical expenditures. The main reasons: the reabsorption of demand and small pharmacy size, as well as the failure to innovate the current business model.

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Fake Vaccine Cards and the Challenges of Decentralized Health Data

By Carmel Shachar and Chloe Reichel

Soon the U.S. will have vaccinated all adults who are not vaccine hesitant. Our next key challenges will be reopening workplaces, restaurants, schools, and other public areas, as well as encouraging vaccine uptake among those who are hesitant or resistant to the vaccine.

Vaccine passports or certifications could be a tool used to address both of those challenges.

But our approach to health care data management may undermine this next stage of the pandemic response.

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EU flag and digital health pass.

Are COVID Certificates the Answer to Safe EU Travel During the Pandemic?

By Iris Goldner Lang

On March 17, the European Commission put forward its Proposal for a Regulation on Digital Green Certificates which would facilitate safe EU cross-border movement for purposes of work and tourism.

Considering the length of the EU decision-making process and the technical work that will need to be done, the digital green certificates will not be ready for use until late June or July this year.

The proposed certificates will include three categories of EU citizens and third-country nationals legally staying/residing in the EU: those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, those who have recovered from COVID-19, and those who can produce a negative test result. A non-EU national travelling to the EU – such as a U.S. citizen – could request a digital green certificate from an EU Member State he/she is travelling to, by providing all the relevant information to the national authorities, which would then have to assess whether to issue the certificate.

The proposed EU certificates would also allow the Commission to issue a decision recognizing certificates issued by third countries to EU citizens and their family members, where such certificates meet quality standards and are interoperable with the EU system. Additionally, the Commission intends to make certificates compatible with systems in third countries, such as the U.S,, and is open to global initiatives.

EU Member States’ reactions to this initiative have been diverse. While some Member States – particularly those dependent on tourism – such as Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Iceland, Denmark, and Spain – support the initiative, others – like Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands – express concerns. In the meantime, both Greece and Cyprus have reached agreements with Israel that should enable their citizens who have been vaccinated to travel between these two EU Member States and Israel without the need to quarantine.

This blog post examines what the European Commission sees as the three main advantages of its Proposal for digital green certificates – the first being that digital green certificates facilitate EU cross-border movement, the second that they preclude more restrictive national measures, and the third that they prevent discrimination.

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