There Is No ‘Right’ to Healthcare

From VOICES for REASON:

The late John David Lewis, a scholar and life-long champion of Ayn Rand’s ideas, has had an article posthumously published in a new medical ethics textbook. In the article, titled “There Is No ‘Right’ to Healthcare,” Dr. Lewis writes:

The greatest motivation behind calls for government control of medicine today may be found in the idea that medical care is an individual right, to be provided by the state. Such a claim is powerful precisely because it is moral in nature; it demands that doctors, other medical professionals, and taxpayers accept the moral duty to provide medical care to others because they need it. As Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi put it, on the night the vote was taken to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, so-called “Obamacare”:

“Today we have the opportunity to complete the great unfinished business of our society and pass health insurance reform for all Americans that is a right and not a privilege.”

If medical care is a right, then every member of the medical profession is bound—and may be required by law—to provide such care, at terms set by the government, whether they agree or not. Further, every citizen of means will be bound to finance such care for others, through taxation. But is this moral claim correct? Those who oppose such government interventions generally see medical care not as a right, but as a personal responsibility for each individual, to be purchased voluntarily from wiling producers. If so, then no one may properly demand medical services as a right—or be coerced into providing such services.

These two positions are in deep conflict in America today. This essay will expand upon each, and show they are founded upon diametrically opposed views of individual rights, which are at moral and conceptual odds with each other.

The idea that medical care is a right has shaped views about what the government’s role should be in the health care industry. American health care today is mostly controlled by the government. A major reason is that people hold medical care not as a good to be earned by one’s own efforts but an entitlement to be provided to some at the expense of others. Dr. Lewis’s contribution to this debate is welcome.

The textbook in which Dr. Lewis’s essay appears can be purchased, here.

(Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand’s long-time associate, has also commented on this topic, here.)