This is a legacy post dated 12/12/2018.
In all the talk about health care these days, there seems to be an assumption that there is a right to (free) health care. That’s a curious notion.
Something to which one has a just claim, such as:
- the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled
- something that one may properly claim as due
Do you have a right to health care?
If so, where does this right come from – where does it originate?
From God? If so, that will be problematic (see questions below). Besides, “you” likely don’t believe in God anyway.
From man? True rights are timeless and universal. If a right derives from man, then the right is, by definition, fickle, and can be granted or revoked at the whim of said man and therefore can’t be a right at all.
If you have a right to health care, how much health care do you have a right to?
- Are there limits on the amount of health care you can demand? If so, it doesn’t really seem like a right at all.
- Do you have a right to so much health care that your rights infringe on the rights of others? Say you require treatment costing millions of dollars, which due to limited resources, curtails the medical resources available to others? Or suppose there is not enough of a medication for everyone? How are rights allocated?
- Suppose there is a disaster and you are in an emergency room triage center and there are so many people that need immediate attention (or else they will die) that there is not enough staff to treat everyone? Do you have a right to health care (to be treated first) over everyone else there? If so, what happened to their right to health care? If not, what happened to your right to health care?
The ephemeral nature of a right to health care:
- If you are alone on a deserted island and need health care, do you still have a right to health care? If so, from whom, and how is it to be delivered?
- If not, does that mean your rights are contextual – sometimes you have them and sometimes you don’t? That doesn’t sound like a right at all.
- If you are on the island with a doctor, is he obligated to treat you? If so, isn’t he then your slave?
- Are you entitled to care for free? If not, with what will you pay for your services?
- If the doctor refuses to treat you, do you have the right to force him to? What (if any) limits exist in your attempt to force him to provide treatment?
- Similarly, where was this right throughout history? Before there were any real health care services available? Or is it a recent right that has been acquired?
Other troubling questions:
- Who is charged with enforcing this right? Who gave them that mandate? What are the requirements and limits of this enforcement? What are the penalties for failing their duty?
- If there are not enough health care providers, can people be forced to join the profession?
- Must all health care be provided to all equally, universally? Across cities counties, states, countries? If so, and this is not done, who is to be held accountable, and who is charged with holding them accountable? What will their punishment be?
- Is it just humans that have a right to health care, or do all earthly creatures? Now there’s a real can of worms!
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Compare true rights to the myth of a right to health care. In the historical context, one can pursue life, liberty, and happiness to the ends of the earth, limited only by one’s capacity or when one reaches the point where pursuing one’s rights infringes on the rights of others.
How far can you get pursuing (free) health care before you infringe on the rights of others (either directly or indirectly)? Sadly, not very far…
Clearly, by any rational meaning of the word, there is no right to health care (free or otherwise). You have the right to pursue whatever health care that may be available to you. You have the right to buy whatever health care you can afford, to ask for charity in the form of health care, or to take advantage of any health care services that others choose to provide for free. But you have no right to make demands of the health care talents and services of others, either directly or indirectly.