Is Health Care a right, and why?

I believe some months ago here on the SDMB I read a post which was the best explanation of why health care should be a right. Now I can’t find it. Years ago I heard a quote

A right is something that doesn’t cost anyone else anything. and it made sense to me.

I suppose that means as humans we don’t have a right to food or shelter if we don’t earn it in some way. Charity exists and can be a positive force but you don’t have a right to charity. It’s the choice of others.

So, is health care a right or simply a smart compassionate choice by a modern society?

How about a fair exchange of goods and services? The government benefits from a healthy population. Therefore, it is in the government’s interest to keep the population healthy. People pay taxes to the government. Therefore, they should receive things in return. Since health care is in their interest, then one of the benefits of being a citizen should be health care.

Is education a right? Fire services?

You pay for education whether you have children or not, you pay for roads even if you don’t own a car, you pay for fire services against a day you might need them.

Everyone pays in for the benefit of all.

Society benefits from a literate populace, your house might never catch fire, you may never need major surgery. Averaging the risk and cost out for these things protects everyone.

Introducing a ‘for profit’ model to health care strikes the rest of the world as akin to making a ‘for profit’ fire service. Please think about what a capitalists wet dream that would be for a moment or two.

People have the rights that society grants them either universally or in some unbalanced fashion. You may have the finest doctors and hospitals on the planet. But access is limited to only those who can afford high quality health insurance, in other words, the ‘haves’.

That seems heartless to many people the world over.

Depends on what you mean by “a right.” To me, there aren’t any rights, just things we agree everyone should have. I live in a country where “freedom of religion” (and freedom from religion, pretty much) are guaranteed “rights.” In some other countries, this is unimaginable; in yet others, it’s technically not a right, but nobody makes a big deal about it one way or the other.

I would like to live in a society where medical care is freely available at a relatively low cost - that is, I’d like it to be a “right.” Which means I’ll continue to support political candidates who agree with me, and try to convince other voters to do likewise.

I disagree with that quote. For example, forbidding slavery means that people who could make more money by using slaves miss out on that money. For another example, free speech means that people can cost others huge sums of money by denouncing their product. Rights of any kind cost others, because they prevent others from exploiting you by violating those rights. And then there’s the fact that all those rights require money and resources to enforce; the police and judicial system and so on cost quite a lot.

Both? We are talking about survival, and about something that individuals aren’t always able to procure for themselves. Something which can be and sometimes is used as a tool of oppression and exploitation by threatening to withhold it; and something that the private sector has shown an unwillingness or inability to properly provide. That sounds like the sort of thing that should qualify as a right.

I think you’re misunderstanding the intent of the quote. Claiming our rights and exercising them have consequences and yes sometimes those consequences are monetary, but basically it doesn’t cost anyone anything for me to exercise my right to free speech. I have thought of the military. Certainly defending the rights of others costs something.

My point in this thread though is that, we do live in a society where we’ve agreed to pay for a fire and police department and education through taxes because it benefits society as a whole. Fine. We realize we have to pay for those things so as tax paying citizens we have a reasonable expectation to them but I wouldn’t consider it a right per say.

I agree it needs to be looked at differently than optional goods and services. If you can’t afford a cell phone, a car, or cable TV, you can live hproductive life without them.

It’s not health care, education, fire services, etc, that are rights, it’s access to them.

If the real cost of education, per child, was levied against parents, instead of being distributed equally among everyone, only the wealthy would be able to educate their children. Society as a whole would suffer.

Same goes for roads. If the true cost of road construction and maintenance were only levied against drivers, only wealthy people would be able to drive and the entire economy would suffer greatly.

You don’t have a right to education, you have a right to equal access to education. You don’t a right to a maintained road system, you have a right to equal access to the road system.

And those rights do cost. They cost everyone. I pay for road construction and maintenance yet don’t have a car. I pay for education though I have no child in school.

This, “A right is something that doesn’t cost anyone else anything.” is hooey, in my opinion.

I’d be very interested to know, who said it, and in what context.

Do we have a Right to health care? Eh, probably not. It’s not defined in the Constitution. It’s not one of the Ten Commandments or 613 laws of the Torah. Access to health care is (strangely enough) not something that separates democracies and republics from totalitarian regimes and dictatorships. So no, no Right.

But whether it is a Right, is it right? Yeah. It is. Same with so many things which also aren’t enumerated in the Constitution or the Bible or anywhere else. There’s no Right to a local library but most of us agree that being able to get read a book for free now and then is ultimately a pretty cool thing. And you know what else is cool? I still have the option to go to the local Borders or Barnes and Noble and buy a book despite the dozen libraries closer by.

To say that one has a right to health care (or the provision of any other service) is to say that you have the right to compel someone else to provide you with services free of charge.

If something disappears when the rest of society goes away, it doesn’t seem proper to call it a “right.” Suppose you’re alone on a tropical island. With no one else around to influence your behavior, you can carry a gun if you have one, speak freely about whatever subject you want, and practice whatever religion suits your fancy. But there’s no one there to provide you with health care. Are your rights being violated? By whom?

Do people have a right to life?

If life is a right, health care is a right.

But it isn’t free of charge. It’s providing a service that we all pay for, just like primary education.

I agree with Joe. You have a right to not be murdered, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to force other people to sustain your life indefinitely at their own expense.

I have heard people make this argument:

Preamble of Declaration of Indepedence of The United States

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are dependent on freedom of access to resonable health care, and as long as health care is set up for profit, someone can stand in the way of it… etc etc etc…

And “pursuit of happiness” for many (most) men is dependent on jackhammering a vagina attached to a pretty face. And yet society does not provide young virgins so that any man can benefit from fulfilling their fantasy sex drives.

And “pursuit of happiness” for many (most) women is dependent on having a baby and raising a family. And yet society does not provide free babies for all those needy infertile women to experience the joy of family life.

Providing free virgins and free babies would cost much less than health care. I’m at a loss as to why the USA government does not provide it.

Pursuit is the key word there. If you want a baby or a vagina you have the right to attempt to attain it. The other two listed there have no such qualifiers.

No, you’re changing the context of the word “pursuit”. Translucent Daydream was using “pursuit” as its own end of which healthcare was a component of that pursuit. An example might be, “pursuit of building an airplane so people can fly makes me happy” of which “healthcare” and “being healthY” was a component of enabling that pursuit.

Likewise, someone might want to “pursue the mathematical equation for gravity for happiness” of which having readily available vaginas so his mind wouldn’t have to be distracted by sex would be a component of that pursuit.

It did not mean “pursuit of healthcare” vs “pursuit of vaginas”.

And if I were to deliberately use your changed meaning of “pursuit”, one also has a right to attempt to attain health care.

And you must do so on society’s terms. That’s where it gets touchy. No rape or kidnaping? Fair enough. Want sex or children outside a somewhat limited tradition of gender-power discourse? Your right even to attempt these things is in question, because we have strings attached that are not about any universal moral good/bad.

We attach the same kinds of social, cultural, and economic strings to access to health care. This shouldn’t surprise anybody, of course.

I’m surprised this thread hasn’t yet been moved to Great Debates…

As for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, society is not required to provide you with the resources with which to do so. Indeed, living in complete isolation on that tropical island, no one can take away your life or liberty, and you are free to pursue happiness by whatever means you see fit. This true despite the fact that no one is around to provide you with health care.

A conventional understanding of the concept of a “right” includes the idea that the violation of a right requires the imposition of will by an external agent: the government violates your right to free speech by putting you in jail for saying the wrong thing, or shuts down your newspaper for printing articles critical of the president. The idea that health care is a “right” runs counter to this idea, as demonstrated by the tropical-island scenario: there are no external agents to impose any will, and yet no health care is available to you. There is no agency to which you may address your grievance, to complain to about the violation of your “right” to health care.

If no external agent is violating your “right”, and yet you do not have this thing (health care) to which you claim a “right”, then it doesn’t make sense to call it a “right”.

Right? :dubious:

No, not really.

ISTM that a right is something that nobody else can prevent you from exercising - other people are obligated to do nothing, in other words.

You have a “right to life” in the sense that nobody else can kill you. You have a “right to free speech” in the sense that nobody else can silence you. You have a “right to assemble” in that, if you want to assemble, no one can prevent you.

A “right to health care” means that other people have to take active steps to give it to you. Doctors and nurses have to treat you, pharmaceutical companies have to give you medications, etc. Health care might be a right, but it is a different right from the right to life.


The obvious answer is that health care is a right only if society chooses to make it one. Otherwise forget it. In the US you may not even have the right to breath air if the justice systems deems it so.

I personally cannot understand why a society would not make it a right. Health care is so fundamental to everyones live - eventually. Excluding the relatively few people who die suddenly/violently, there is a high likelihood everyone will tax the health system for big $$$ during the course of their lifetime. So vitually everyone uses it, to an extent that cannot be predetermined for anybody. And when you’re sick, really sick, you’ll pay everything you can to get better. Not much point in saving it for later because you’ll be dead.

So we all need it, and we will pay anything for it. However, when you go to buy it you cannot know the prices up front and you cannot not really understand the differences in care/quality/treatments/options available to you - unless you happen to be a relevant specialist and even then you wouldn’t know the costs.

How is this capitalist? In a real free markets I go to buy a product. I can compare price and quality with competitors products. I can choose to buy nothing. The seller needs to have worthwhile and competitive product to survive selling products.

Health care free market. I walk in because I NEED HELP NOW. I’ll pay anything. I have no idea what it will cost but know it’ll be lots. I usually can’t compare treatments. Sure, maybe you have insurance but often they have maximum payouts. Sometimes you don’t have it because of prequalifying conditions, or simply because you can’t afford it.

So yeah, that seems inherently unfair. Making it a societal right makes it a even playing field for everybody - aka public health care. Don’t worry about spending your life savings for the treatments. Don’t worry if the treatment is substandard to your neighbors medical plan. All men/women are treated fair and equal. Because health care is not, and cannot be a true free market product.