Persons who are medical whistleblowers are by definition Defenders of Human Rights because they are persons who have stepped forward to provide information about medical fraud against vulnerable populations, patient abuse and neglect, and human rights violations. These defenders of human rights are concerned about human rights involving violations of minor children, elderly, disabled, mental health patients, prisoners, migrants, immigrants and patients in hospital treatment for addiction. Many are mandated reporters under state or US federal law. Medical whistleblowers come from all walks of life and many professional disciplines.
Defenders of human rights within the medical community represent significant sources of intelligence about criminal activity and violation of patients' rights within a medical context due to their unique access to information not readily available to law enforcement. Patient abuse can be physical, financial, emotional, psychological or sexual abuse. Because of their efforts to "Tell Truth to Power" defenders of human rights (medical whistleblowers) often become themselves victims of crime and their own human rights violated. Defenders of human rights are often retaliated against by those whose criminal wrongdoings the defender is exposing. The lack of proper due process and use of immunity granted by the Health Care Quality Improvement Act has allowed persons to intimidate mandated reporters and destroy their professional careers with impunity. Those who are criminally culpable for violations of state and federal law or even human rights violations frequently use bad faith peer review to tarnish the professional record of a medical whistleblower.
The federal government should publicly condemn intimidation, harassment and physical attacks directed at health care providers who ensure access to fundamental human rights. The government should also take action to prevent such attacks, to protect health care professionals against such attacks, and to prosecute those who perpetrate attacks. The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1999 with the full support of the U.S., recognizes the central role played by those who promote the realization of human rights and sets out the special obligation of governments to protect them. And U.N. expert reports have recognized that health care providers are entitled to special protection as human rights defenders where they fulfill their professional duties in a way that promotes human rights, such as the right to health and the freedom from abuse and neglect.