On the right of healthcare

Healthcare is not a right.

Since that sentiment has been shared quite a bit by itself, allow me to elaborate.

To say something is a right is is to obligate others to perform services and provide goods in accord with that right, otherwise the right is stripped of its meaning.

Traditionally rights have been seen as derived by God. So with healthcare we should ask why God is not providing that right for us in the world he has made.

This traditional view of rights is why we historically have worded rights as the right to pursue, not have, something. For example, I have the right to life, liberty, and happiness in our country. That doesn’t mean anyone is obligated to provide those for me, but rather that I should have a reasonable chance in attaining them.

Some might object that:

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, proclaimed that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one’s family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care.”

PS – ratified with the United States vote!

The UN fails to ground human rights in anything other than an agreed-upon consensus of nations. That means that their notion of rights is highly subjective and not a little whimsical at the outset.

But if we want to base our notion of rights on what the UN decides, why don’t we take a look at their record.

Oh, and the UN also considers the circumcision of children to be a violation of human rights.

And they consider the application of the death penalty to “children” (broadly defined) to be a violation of human rights.

In short, I do not see a reason to consider the UN to be an authority about what rights humans do and do not posses. Neither the US nor the UN are our creator and as such neither are able to confer rights.

Remember the deceleration of independence. The rights we recognize (or used to anyway) are the rights conferred to us by our common creator. Not by politicians, not by collective vote, not by international decree.

Another way to put it is this: Rights are not declared, they are derived.

In order to invoke a sense of moral obligation with regard to human rights you must first establish from whence these rights come. If you want to say that rights come from the government then I would agree with your assertion that healthcare is now considered a human right by virtue of the law. However that does nothing to address the question of whether healthcare ought to be a right or whether the law can be amended to remove that right or not.

If, however, we want to base our definition of a right on something more objective we need to look beyond what the law says and look, instead, to what God says.

The reason I brought up the constitution is to show how rights were thought of at our country’s inception. That is they are inalienable by virtue of being derived from God and not conferred to us by other men (like a king or parliament).

We used to operate based on an understanding of natural law. That is, our laws were created and enacted based on universals, generally rooted in a Judaeo-Christian framework. Now, however, laws are created and enacted based on the whims of those in power.

  1. ‎The US is a sovereign nation and not subject to the UN. I know we operate in a grey area at the moment on this but I am glad that my decision to have my sons circumcised does not mean I’m likely to face a UN panel on human rights violations any time soon.
  2. I’m not sure how you are extrapolating your scenario on abortion from my position. We are given the right to the pursuit of life, liberty, and justice by our creator. This doesn’t mean those things will be given to us automatically, we have to undergo the task of pursuing them. What it does mean is that preventing someone else from that pursuit is a violation of the rights we derive from our creator.

That doesn’t mean we can’t be aided in our pursuit, but it does mean that such aid is not automatic, expected, or to be demanded. In other words, if I aid someone on their pursuit of life, liberty, or justice I am doing them a favor. I am not obligated to do that for them. Likewise with God. He is not obligated to aid us, but he does as a free gift of undeserved grace.

When we misunderstand the relationship of rights and responsibilities we end up cheapening grace and charity by thinking they are obligations that can be demanded of others instead of gifts we should be thankful to receive.


One response to “On the right of healthcare

  1. Pingback: Why doesn’t the state just get out of the marriage business altogether? | Reason To Stand

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