“Taking it on the chin”: Older people, human rights and COVID-19

John Williams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The purpose of this article is to discuss the implications of government responses to COVID-19 for older people. Governments in England and in Wales faced complex decisions when responding to COVID-19. This paper considers the impact of their actions on the human rights of older people. It argues that there is a case to answer of potential breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights. Although it is too early to come to firm conclusions as more scientific and medical evidence is required, some actions by governments seem to be based on using age as a basis for decision-making. Human rights are complex, and it is important that claims of violations satisfy the Convention, the Human Rights Act 1998, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and other international instruments.

The paper considers the legal framework of the European Convention and its relevance to Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) and older people. Case law, academic research, guidance and media coverage form the basis of the research.

The governments have a strong case to answer. In defending their positions against allegations of discrimination against older people, they need to produce strong and convincing evidence including medical and scientific evidence that formed the basis of their decisions.

This paper is based on original research into human rights, older people and COVID-19.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-97
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Adult Protection
Issue number2
Early online date15 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2021


  • Ageism
  • COVID-19
  • Dignity
  • Discrimination
  • Human rights
  • Legal
  • Older people
  • Right to life


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