Free the Patient Prisoners

Hospitals detain hundreds of thousands of patients—many seeking life-saving emergency care—each year for lack of payment, a Chatham House report found.

Concentrated among the poorest people, the troubling practice, enabled by health financing systems requiring immediate payment for care, violates international human rights law.

In Uganda, the practice is so common that patients assume it is legal. In Indonesia, babies are often held as collateral while hospitals await payment.

Rescuing detainees with media pressure, philanthropies and NGOs can only put a band-aid on the problem—countries must put a legal ban on the practice and ideally, replace it with publicly-funded Universal Health Care.

Chatham House

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