The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics   |  February 20, 2008

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This article deals with a foreign policy question of extraordinary importance: What responsibilities do States have to provide economic and technical assistance to other states that have high levels of need affecting the health and life of their citizens? The question is important for a variety of reasons. There exist massive inequalities in health globally, with the result that poorer countries shoulder a disproportionate burden of disease and premature death. While poor countries have by far the greatest ongoing health needs, they also have the least capacity to meet those needs. In addition to the pervasive and debilitating effects of endemic disease, developing countries are likely to suffer much more from the effects of acute health hazards, ranging from natural disasters and dislocations to emerging infectious diseases.

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