Rights, Obligations, and the Special Importance of Health Care
My aim in this essay is to develop a more rigorous moral case than has hitherto been made for establishing a general right to a “decent minimum” or “adequate level” of health care.1 The most distinctive characteristic of the approach I shall pursue is that it does not attempt to support the establishment of such a general legal right by appealing to a general moral right to health care. Since attempts to justify the claim that there is a general moral right to health care have been extensively criticized by myself and others, I will not here rehearse the difficulties of the general moral right approach . Nor will I review the equally familiar and compelling reasons for maintaining that if there is a sound moral justification for a general legal right to health care, then it must be a limited right, a right to a “decent minimum” or “adequate level” of health care or “health care floor”, rather than a right to all beneficial care, a right of all to equal dollar amounts for care, or a right to a level of care equal to that which others receive (, Vol. I, pp. 18–21). Instead, I shall concentrate on developing a case for a limited general legal right to health care based on the thesis that there is a general moral obligation to provide such care to those who cannot provide it for themselves, even if there is no general moral right to health care of any kind. In doing so, I shall offer answers to four questions.
KeywordsMoral Obligation Health Care Institution Special Obligation Imperfect Duty General Obligation
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