Health Care as a Human Right: A Rawlsian Approach
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This thesis looks at fundamental disagreements about the role of society in the delivery of health care services. In particular, it develops an argument for viewing health care as a human right, and in doing so, argues that society is at least partially responsible for the health of its members. In the first section of the thesis, I argue that health is a human need, and that the institutional goal of health care is to restore to an individual their health. As an institution, health care is a primary social good and, as such, it ought to be afforded the same institutional protections as other primary social goods, and encoded as a “human right.” In the second section, I tackle the “Difficult Costs” objection, noting that while there is high financial cost associated with the provision of health care services, the moral and social cost of not providing health care and viewing it as a human right far outweighs the financial costs. With another appeal to Rawlsian principles, by way of reflective equilibrium, I argue that the design of an institution is paramount to the cost-effective distribution of health care resources in accordance with the view that health care is a human right. In the final section, I acknowledge that the objections to health care as a human right should be taken seriously, and that they form the basis of the limits to this right. I argue that any right to health care cannot be extended beyond the restoration of basic, species-typical normal human function. I acknowledge that the Rawlsian ideal has difficulty rendering decisions where priority is a central concern. Finally, I suggest that these limitations can be overcome when the right to health care is viewed as progressively realizable, in conjunction with other basic human rights.