Global Rights and the Sanctity of Life
The Globalization of Health Care, Glenn Cohen, ed., Oxford University Press, 2013
38 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 4, 2013
This essay, to be published in a collection of essays edited by Glenn Cohen, argues that basic moral rights to health care exist in two cases. First, they exist when persons have a moral duty to respect the sanctity of life, by avoiding injury or risk to others, or to give aid to those in need. This also creates a right to be rescued by those to whom we are in some special relationship or in special proximity. There is also, second, a basic political right to health care against one’s own government, whenever such a government exercises jurisdiction over persons and territory. The content of the right is the setting up of an effective health system – parallel, perhaps to a general system of civil and criminal justice – enabling individuals to enjoy the fruits of common life without fear of violence or exploitation. The source of this right includes a principle of equal citizenship which ought to be a constitutional pre-condition of political legitimacy. Other rights and duties of the human rights canon are simply legislated rights or established policies. I conclude that it is a mistake to see the international human right to health as a single moral principle. Behind the slogan there are several other principles at work.
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