Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Right to Health Care

The country is beginning to descend into the morass known as the Affordable Care Act. This program insincerely purports to be a health care program when, in fact, it is an effort to control health care costs. It grandly presents itself as the achievement of a long neglected right, the right to health care. There have, of late, been a growth of rights around the world, whether realized or not. The Universal Declaration of Rights, created by the U.N., is instructive and here are a few examples:

16. to marry and found a family
22. free development of his personality.
25  adequate standard of living.
26. free education
27. enjoy the arts. (The same article has a rider: The right of copyright.)
All of these rights have in common the inability of the individual to exercise them without significant help and contribution from others. Free education must be funded and those funds must come from somewhere. One, to marry and found a family, must have a willing volunteer as a partner and...AND... that partner must be fertile; infertility would be an abridgement of the partner's rights. What about "free development of his personality?" Some of life's difficulties would be illegal if they cramped someone's development. And the "enjoy the arts" is a real zinger; what if the citizen doesn't like current styles or fashions. What if some guy in Nigeria can't see the Russian ballet?

Rights as principles have certain obvious characteristics. Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness are inherently abstract notions that can be approached and fulfilled only by the active effort of the individual and careful distance by the state. But as goals, they get confused. Equality other than that by nature before God is clearly impossible. Fraternity is a bit whimsical; one cannot guarantee community on either end of the bargain. And promising such "rights" must be dangerous to the society; unfulfilled devotees certainly would reconsider the sincerity of the promise.
The real question here is medical care as a right. How is such a right seen? Is the medical care of the average New Yorker the same care as Shepherdstown, West Virginia? Doesn't the Shepherdstown citizen have a right to New York medical care? Certainly, if not identical, it should be comparable. And what about the physician; is he harnessed to the patient's right? Can he decline to care for someone or is his freedom limited by the patient's right to care? How does that infringement on his freedom work?

The problem here is that rights are inborn, inherent to the individual by his very nature. They are not goals. Nor are they products. They are not time sensitive--one cannot have rights that appear with a new technology  Most importantly, they are not a function of another's efforts, nor, especially, of another's freedom.

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