A Right to Health Care
Article first published online: 12 JUL 2012
© 2012 American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Inc.
The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics
Special Issue: SYMPOSIUM: Pharmaceutical Firms and the Right to Health
Volume 40, Issue 2, pages 268–285, Summer 2012
How to Cite
Eleftheriadis, P. (2012), A Right to Health Care. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 40: 268–285. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2012.00663.x
- Issue published online: 12 JUL 2012
- Article first published online: 12 JUL 2012
What does it mean to say that there is a right to health care? Health care is part of a cooperative project that organizes finite resources. How are these resources to be distributed? This essay discusses three rival theories. The first two, a utilitarian theory and an interst theory, are both instrumental, in that they collapse rights to good states of affairs. A third theory, offered by Thomas Pogge, locates the question within an institutional legal context and distinguishes between a right to health care that results in claimable duties and other dimensions of health policy that do not. Pogge's argument relies on a list of “basic needs,” which itself, however, relies on some kind of instrumental reasoning. The essay offers a reconstruction of Pogge's argument to bring it in line with a political conception of a right to health care. Health is a matter of equal liberty and equal citizenship, given our common human vulnerability. If we are to live as equal members in a political community, then our institutions need to create processes by which we are protected from the kinds of suffering that would make it impossible for us to live as equal members.