Letter to the Editor: Why health care is not a universal human right

Lately, I have heard many Obamacare proponents claim that receiving health care is a universal human right.

I will not address who should pay for health care, or Capitalism vs. Socialism, but only challenge the conception held by some that health care is something that we are all naturally entitled to. If we accept that liberty is a universal human right however, it is impossible for health care to be considered such.

The right to receive health care directly conflicts with personal liberty.

First, liberty must be defined. Liberty is our right to choose, in every way, how to live and pursue happiness.

Two rights are implied in this definition: life, which is necessary in order to have liberty, and the right to pursue happiness, which requires liberty. These three rights are the foundation of the United States, the rights which the entire American system of government is designed to protect.

There are limits on liberty, however, if it a universal human right. Let’s say that because I have liberty I can choose to force someone to give me an oil change. This violates the other person’s liberty; if I had the right to do this, then they wouldn’t truly have liberty and so liberty would not be universal.

Thus, in order for liberty to be a universal human right, it must be limited to choosing alternatives which do not violate another person’s liberty. In accordance with the modern interpretation of the Declaration of Independence, let’s assume that liberty is in fact universal.

In relation to liberty, we can look at health care in the same way as an oil change. Both are services, which must be performed by some person.

A doctor and a mechanic are both humans, presumably, which means that they both have liberty. As in the case of the oil change, I cannot force the doctor to provide me with medical care without violating her liberty. It is within the realm of her liberty to deny me this service.

This is not to say that doing so is a morally acceptable act by her, because she could be failing to fulfill an obligation that she has as a doctor to provide medical care for anyone in need of it; however, the immorality in this case would arise from (1) the doctor failing to fulfill an obligation which she freely accepted and (2) a failure to protect my right to life, not from a violation of some right that I hold which gives me permission to force her to treat me. This rests on the fact that the source of an obligation is not always a right.

So, if we accept the principle that liberty is a universal human right, then we cannot rightfully claim that receiving health care is, too.

Our liberty grants us the right to buy health care when it is available for purchase, but we are not entitled to receive it without payment.



philosophy major