Integrating Human Rights and Women's Health Competencies for Practice

Physicians must be able to apply the principles of human rights to the daily practice of women’s health care.

This requires that they develop the following competencies:

1. Life: Everyone has the right to life

  • Discuss the impact of provision and denial of emergency healthcare services
  • Provide emergency lifesaving treatment independent of practitioner’s own personal beliefs
  • Describe how health care systems can ensure or compromise the right to life

2. Health: Everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

  • Discuss the impact of availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality of care on health outcomes
  • Assess the quality of health care services for diverse populations in your community
  • Discuss how public health measures for screening and prevention of disease and injury prolong life expectancy

3. Privacy: Everyone has the right to have their privacy respected while receiving health care

  • Conduct the consultation, examination and treatment of the patient in a private space and in a manner that ensures privacy and respect
  • Recognizse when there is a need for a third party or chaperone to be present
  • Maintain patient privacy in the presence of a chaperone or other individuals invited by the patient
  • Acknowledge and accommodate varying cultural attitudes towards modesty

4. Confidentiality: Everyone has the right to confidentiality in relation to information on health care and health status.

  • Maintain patient confidentiality and avoid unnecessary disclosure of information
  • Communicate to patients how confidentiality of all written and digital personal information is maintained
  • Discuss the potential harm and benefit of release of confidential information to third parties
  • Discuss how interpretation of the laws on confidentiality affects the provision of health care for women
  • Discuss how decisions to protect or disclose confidential information are made 

5. Autonomy and decision making: Everyone has the right to autonomous decision-making in matters concerning their health

  • Acknowledge and respect decisions that patients make about their own healthcare
  • Explore medical, social and cultural considerations affecting patient decision making
  • Evaluate the capacity of an individual at any age to make his or her own informed decisions
  • Ensure that the “best interests” and evolving capacity of the child are considered in obtaining consent from children and their legal guardians

6. Information: Everyone has the right to receive and impart information related to their health 

  • Communicate the risks, benefits and alternatives of accepting and declining therapies to patients
  • Offer full disclosure of test results and provide full information unless specifically requested otherwise by the patient
  • Use language that is culturally sensitive and understandable to the patient
  • Provide up to date clear evidence based information to assist patients with informed decision-making

7. Non-discrimination: No one shall be subject to discrimination on any grounds in the course of receiving health care

  • Discuss how principles of non-discrimination result in improved health for everyone
  • Discuss the impact of societal and cultural roles and religious practices on healthcare
  • Discuss the extent to which women are ensured appropriate care in maternity services
  • Provide optimal health care services and establish mutually respectful relationships with men and women of all backgrounds and abilities

8. Decide upon number and spacing of children: Everyone has the right to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights

  • Counsel patients about the risks, benefits, mechanisms of action and access to services for all methods of contraception
  • Provide information about the risks, benefits, mechanisms of action, and access to services for all methods of abortion, where it is legal
  • Discuss the effects of coercion or denial of contraceptive and abortion services upon the short and long term health of a woman and her family
  • Provide comprehensive pre-conception counseling
  • Discuss indications for referral for fertility problems

9. Freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment: Everyone has the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the field of health care

  • Identify and assist victims of physical, psychological and sexual violence and abuse, including domestic violence, human trafficking and political rape
  • Describe the effects of locally prevalent harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, early marriage and polygamy
  • Discuss the harm resulting from denial of medical treatment and from involuntary sterilization
  • Discuss how ethical standards for doctor-patient relationships support standards of medical and surgical care

10. Benefit from scientific progress: Everyone has the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications.

  • Access and critically evaluate new information from a variety of sources
  • Inform patients of new evidence based practices to maintain and restore their health
  • Collaborate with patients to integrate optimal medical therapies with their health beliefs and community resources

Competencies collated by the FIGO Committee for Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights
Approved by FIGO Executive Board August 2011 (Updated 14 May 2012)