August 12, 2009 by Gsmith
Does every human being have the right to equal access to health care? The only way one might answer this question is to generalize it as an argument for an obligation to prevent suffering and preserve health, when the preservation and prevention of the same does not endanger the health or well-being of another.
Kant would have called an obligation to preserve health a hypothetical imperative. If a person is drowning, would you take the time to throw him a rope and pull him to shore? If not, why not?
A common argument among religious types is the permissible but not obligatory option. Sure, they assert, it’s great to love your neighbor, but no one should be forced to do so. This argument ignores important aspects of the fundamental question. Either our society has a duty to help people regain health and prevent suffering, or it has a duty not to do so. The choice seems obvious. If we do not have an obligation to prevent human misery and death, what obligations do we have, exactly? Leaving such an imperative to some charitable impulse seems not only ridiculous but counterproductive in context.
I find it difficult to argue for the right to something that is not absolutely necessary. A backyard barbeque grill is nice, but not absolutely necessary. Neither is a backyard. Reasonable prevention and treatment of disease and suffering is a necessity, in my opinion, both to the individual and to society as a whole.