With landmark reforms and scrutiny at the highest levels of government over the past few years, one thing is certain. America and her people are taking a good hard look at health care. It would be hard to argue that few people are unaffected by the use and access to this precious, lifesaving resource. But one thing has become apparent in the debates over the use of this resource; it seems that the national opinion about this resource is fractured into the competing ideas of many different groups. It seems that America has long been trying to answer the question about how to address this topic for quite some time, perhaps unto its very founding. So, to understand how we view this resource, we must first ask ourselves, is health care a right, a privilege or a responsibility?
The first step in answering this question must by necessity be to define the parameters. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a rite as something that a person is or should be morally or legally allowed to have, get, or do(“Merriam-Webster”). This same source defines a privilege as a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others. (“Merriam-Webster”) A responsibility is defined as a duty or task that you are required or expected to do or as something that you should do because it is morally right, legally required, etc. (“Merriam-Webster”). Now that it has been made clear what each of these points entail, we must now ask, how shall health care be labeled in respect to these dichotomous ideals?
Health care as a Right
Although we have a rudimentary understanding of what constitutes a right from the definition we established from the dictionary, a deeper understanding necessitates a deeper conversation. In America, we hold to two separate ideas as to what constitutes a right. We have rights that flow to us from the mere fact that we are alive, and we hold to the fact that these rights flow to us from some sense of the Devine. We call these our “inalienable rights” and amongst these are the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (“The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription”).
The next type of right that we receive is established by our legal system of government, and these rights are predicated upon many separate sources, many of which are built upon each other. These sources include the Christian Bible, the English Common Law system, and the Constitution of the United States, as well as all of the laws, statutes and legal precedents that flow from that most hallowed of documents. To develop our understanding of why health care should be viewed as a Right, our examination of this principle will begin with the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Eight Amendment states that “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”(“Bill of Rights” ). It may seem like this simple sentence has nothing to do with Health care, but given that it was adopted in 1791...