Sep 12, 2009

Health care as a human right

Is health care a human right? Medical anthropologist Dr. Paul Farmer says yes:

Some, such as Donald Sensing over at Sense of Events, argue that health care should NOT be thought of as a "natural right". Sensing argues that health care should be seen as more of a service than a right:

The presumption that health care is a right, and therefore must be equal for everyone, is founded on two critical errors of understanding. The first is that health care is a resource that is simply available for those who need it, or that can be made equally available through proper legislation and regulation. The second error is that medical care and access to it can be rationed by command more equally, economically and fairly than by demand.

Phil Niles rearranges the question and asks instead HOW MUCH health care is a human right:

With all of the emotional and financial investment in health care, it is important to address the situation with an actionable approach - not an ideologic one. My suggestion is to quantify just HOW MUCH health care we believe is "right" to provide, recognize that we should cap public health care spending, and focus the moral/fiscal debate on how high that cap should be set. Let's achieve our ambitions of providing access for the uninsured with the most likely way of succeeding: by haggling about the price.

This is a conflict-ridden issue, and opinions abound. Before any progress can be made in this debate, do some basic issues need to be worked out? Is there any common ground in the health care debate? Is health care something that should be affordable and available to everyone and anyone? Or should health care be placed within the market forces of competition, supply & demand, and profit. Is the answer somewhere in between? Can the value of public health be quantified? Where does personal responsibility come into play? Do people earn health care, or is it something they all deserve as a matter of course?


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