Right to a Decent Minimum of Health Care by Allen Buchanan
Allen E. Buchanan’s “The right to a decent minimum in health care” opens an extensive debate to the limits and issues of using the concept of universal rights of humans in arguing that everyone has the right to have a decent minimum of health care. Problematizing this issue, the author sought to establish that, it is not based on a universal right to “assure” that people will have the right to a decent minimum. Instead, the right to a decent minimum must be argued on four grounds, which Buchanan enumerated and explained in his article.
One of the primary arguments he asserted in the article is the concept of special over universal rights. For him, the right to a decent minimum should be given to people who have had experienced ‘injustice’ from American society historically, such as the black Americans and native Americans (Indians). These people, who have received “unjust treatment by government and other social institutions,” are covered under the special rights, where extraordinary circumstances that happened to them necessitates the need for the right to a decent minimum be implemented and enforced in their case (376).
Secondly, the harm-prevention argument is similar to the “universal right to health care,” although this actually pertains to “equal protection” that people must have in terms of health care. The author posits that with harm-prevention, people will seek to have protection for their health, and consider this act as a moral obligation; thus, the author argues that harm-prevention becoming a moral obligation then results to its standardization “across different racial, ethnic, or geographic groups within the country” (377).
Prudential arguments include the argument that individuals need to have basic forms of health care for their participation in the labor force. The government’s need for productive workers inevitably leads to the development of basic health care services, and the author cites the right to a decent minimum as an arguably good way wherein people can attain these services. Much like the special rights argument, prudential arguments seek to segment American society into various groups, especially productive and skilled workers, and argue that their cases and conditions require the need to establish their right to a decent minimum of health care.
Lastly, duty of charity, according to the author, plays a vital role in determining the effectiveness and enforcement of the right to decent minimum in American society. Buchanan argues that duty to charity has two arguments: one in which the individual fails to contribute for the provision of decent minimum of health care simple because s/he things that the goal will be achieved without his/her help, while the other argument asserts that s/he will only contribute if given the assurance that others would also sufficiently contribute to the cause.
These four primary arguments Buchanan poses in his article illustrates that the issue of the right to a decent minimum involves multilateral perspectives, wherein the universal argument that people must have the right to a decent minimum will not work, simply because the provision and standardization of basic health care services are subject to various interpretations and cases.
Buchanan, A. (1999). “The right to a decent minimum of health care.” In Beauchamp, T. And L. Walters, Contemporary Issues in Bioethics. (5th ed.). CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co.
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