Princeton’s João Biehl explores consequences of Brazil’s constitutional right to health

In 2010, Edgar Lemos, a retired bus driver in Porto Alegre, Brazil, sued his government for failing to provide medication to treat his neurological disorder. It was his privilege to do so: Brazil and more than 100 other nations grant the right to health, which in Brazil has given rise to numerous lawsuits against the government for access to medicines of all kinds.

Princeton University anthropology professor João Biehl has documented the emergence of right-to-health litigation in that country over the past decade. Through visits to courtrooms and clinics to meet patients and record their stories, combined with rigorous evaluation of medical and legal data, Biehl, a native of Brazil, and his research team have created a detailed picture of who sues for treatment and why in this country of about 200 million people and an economy on the rise.

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