Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Health is a right?

Here is a really interesting post on The Health Care Blog by Maggie Mahar who rights on the Health Beat blog. In it she criticizes the use of rights language when talking about health care reform. Money quote:
"I have to admit I often have found the language of healthcare “rights” off-putting. Yet the idea of healthcare as a “right” is usually pitted against the idea of healthcare as a “privilege.” Given that choice, I’ll circle “right” every time.

Still, when people claim something as a “right,” they often sound shrill and demanding. Then someone comes along to remind us that people who have “rights” also have “responsibilities,” and the next thing you know, we’re off and running in the debate about healthcare as a “right” vs. healthcare as a matter of “individual responsibility."

I vehemently disagree with her. Her main thesis is that rights language is not specific enough, and tends to polarize the discussion. In my opinion, it is exactly the type of language that we need to get things moving. The language of human rights is very specific. The only body that can guarantee rights to people are sovereign governments - no private entity can ever grant rights. For that simple reason, we must use rights language to describe health. Health care cannot be bought and sold on the open market because, by economic definition, there will be people who cannot afford the price set by the intersection of supply and demand. By casting access to reasonable health care as a human right, we can move beyond the idea that health is something that can be bought and sold, and move toward universal access.

Is this "shrill and demanding"? I certainly hope so. Guaranteeing all people the ability to see a doctor when they are sick is certainly one of the most pressing issues of our time.

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