My Right to Care for my Health — And What About the Needy and the Elderly?

  • Hans-Martin Sass
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 38)


It has become very popular to apply the highly inflated language of rights in addressing issues of personal health status and of priorities in allocation of taxpayer’s resources. Such an intellectual and political fashion fad, however, seems to have little or no basis in our everyday and common sense approach to health and health care [14]. Whenever I personally think about health, apart from those intellectual debates and public policy discussions, it is not the term “right”, nor the term “obligation”, nor “resource” that comes to mind first. I feel I have a responsibility to take care of my health. It is not only an asset; it is an end in itself, inasmuch as its absence or deterioration is painful, harmful, fatal. It is also a commodity, a precondition, which I use to achieve other goals in life: satisfaction, social integration, love, reputation, power, contribution to the common good, and working hard. I am using health as a means; I might trade it for other values, assets, or valuables, according to personal choice or milieu. Protecting or improving or trading health, its quantitative length as well as its qualitative standard, is a result of living, of voluntarily or involuntarily making decisions, choosing, managing risks. Health is a risk factor in life; I therefore deal with it appropriately when using the arts and sciences of risk analysis, risk assessment, and risk management. It seems to me that the risk language is more appropriate to deal with issues of personal health care as well as of health policy than the rights language [13, 15].


Responsibility Approach Personal Health Care Catastrophic Illness Responsibility Principle Common Sense Approach 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans-Martin Sass
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut für PhilosophicRuhr Universität BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.Kennedy Institute of EthicsGeorgetown UniversityWashington, D.C.USA

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