Planetary medicine and the Waitangi Tribunal Whanganui River Report: Global health law embracing ecosystems as patients

A recent decision of the Waitangi Tribunal granted legal personhood to New Zealand’s Whanganui River (appointing guardians to act in its interests). Exploring the impacts of this decision, this column argues that new technologies (such as artificial photosynthesis) may soon be creating policy opportunities not only for legal personhood to be stripped from some artificial persons, but for components of the natural world (such as rivers and other ecosystems) to be granted such enforceable legal rights. Such technologies, if deployed globally, may do this by taking the pressure off ecosystems to be exploited for human profit and survival. It argues that, by also creating normative space for such an expansion of sympathy, global heath law begins to incorporate the vision of planet as patient.

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