An inalienable right to chicken Kiev 3

The great essayist (and physician) Theodore Dalrymple writes in the Wall Street Journal:

If there is a right to health care, someone has the duty to provide it. Inevitably, that “someone” is the government. Concrete benefits in pursuance of abstract rights, however, can be provided by the government only by constant coercion.

People sometimes argue in favor of a universal human right to health care by saying that health care is different from all other human goods or products. It is supposedly an important precondition of life itself. This is wrong: There are several other, much more important preconditions of human existence, such as food, shelter and clothing.

Everyone agrees that hunger is a bad thing (as is overeating), but few suppose there is a right to a healthy, balanced diet, or that if there was, the federal government would be the best at providing and distributing it to each and every American.

Where does the right to health care come from? Did it exist in, say, 250 B.C., or in A.D. 1750? If it did, how was it that our ancestors, who were no less intelligent than we, failed completely to notice it?

If, on the other hand, the right to health care did not exist in those benighted days, how did it come into existence, and how did we come to recognize it once it did?

When the supposed right to health care is widely recognized, as in the United Kingdom, it tends to reduce moral imagination. Whenever I deny the existence of a right to health care to a Briton who asserts it, he replies, “So you think it is all right for people to be left to die in the street?”

When I then ask my interlocutor whether he can think of any reason why people should not be left to die in the street, other than that they have a right to health care, he is generally reduced to silence. He cannot think of one.

Moreover, the right to grant is also the right to deny. And in times of economic stringency, when the first call on public expenditure is the payment of the salaries and pensions of health-care staff, we can rely with absolute confidence on the capacity of government sophists to find good reasons for doing bad things.

The question of health care is not one of rights but of how best in practice to organize it. America is certainly not a perfect model in this regard. But neither is Britain, where a universal right to health care has been recognized longest in the Western world.

Not coincidentally, the U.K. is by far the most unpleasant country in which to be ill in the Western world. Even Greeks living in Britain return home for medical treatment if they are physically able to do so.

The government-run health-care system—which in the U.K. is believed to be the necessary institutional corollary to an inalienable right to health care—has pauperized the entire population. This is not to say that in every last case the treatment is bad: A pauper may be well or badly treated, according to the inclination, temperament and abilities of those providing the treatment. But a pauper must accept what he is given.

Universality is closely allied as an ideal, ideologically, to that of equality. But equality is not desirable in itself. To provide everyone with the same bad quality of care would satisfy the demand for equality. (Not coincidentally, British survival rates for cancer and heart disease are much below those of other European countries, where patients need to make at least some payment for their care.)

In any case, the universality of government health care in pursuance of the abstract right to it in Britain has not ensured equality. After 60 years of universal health care, free at the point of usage and funded by taxation, inequalities between the richest and poorest sections of the population have not been reduced. But Britain does have the dirtiest, most broken-down hospitals in Europe.

There is no right to health care—any more than there is a right to chicken Kiev every second Thursday of the month.

Posted under Britain, Commentary, Health, Socialism, United Kingdom, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, July 29, 2009

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This post has 3 comments.

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  • roger in florida

    In my comment above I did not wish to convey the impression that all hospitals and medical facilities in the UK are as I described. Or that there are not dedicated and highly skilled medical professionals in the UK NHS, there most certainly are and some, perhaps most, of the care offered is of a very high standard. If any UK medical professional is reading these comments and has taken offense, I apologise for the offense I have caused.
    My point is that the business plan, or model, of the NHS is flawed. It is not a customer oriented institution, neither is it an institution that takes care of it's own employees. The creation of the NHS was a well meant error, made by people who had a marxist view of society, a view that has been demonstrated over and over again to be mistaken.
    In the health care legislation proposed in the US there are agendas at work that have nothing whatsoever to do with improving care or reducing costs. An example of this is the promise to increase funding to medical schools that accept and graduate minority (black) students. The reasoning behind this is that blacks are under represented in
    numbers of doctors practicing compared to their proportion of the population as a whole, this is obviously the result of white racism. Of course any sensible person will know that in order to be accepted at a medical school such as Harvard or Oxford and have a reasonable chance of graduating the candidate must have an IQ of 140+. There are almost no blacks in this range of IQ, but many jews, which is why jews are over represented in the medical profession. I don't want to get into an argument about race genetics, I merely raise this point to demonstrate that govt. controlled medicine, like all other branches of govt. has agendas that are not necessarily in the interests of the general population. The result of this particular agenda is that Americans will be treated in a few years by doctors who are qualified by skin color only, such doctors will botch operations, make bad diagnostic decisions and generally cause a lot of pain and suffering.

  • r in f –

    What a terrible story! And it rings absolutely true. From my own experience I can endorse everything you say about the British National Health Service, and about the difference between life in a free society and life under socialism.

    Thank you for this, and for all your illuminating comments and contributions.

  • roger in florida

    I have recounted before the experience my brother had with socialised medicine, I need to tell another story about my former brother in law who was married and then divorced from my youngest sister. Dennis had a genetic condition that was going to result in his certain death at a young age. He was admitted to an NHS facility in Luton, Bedfordshire, essentially as a terminal case and put into a critical care single occupancy room. His condition had produced sores over his body, he was in a very bad state. His own worthless family had in effect abandoned him, which left my Mother and youngest sister as his only concerned family. The room was filthy, there was a waste basket overflowing with used needles, stale blood encrusted dressings, other old dressings obviously crusted with dried pus, from who knows how many previous patients. The private bathroom was filthy,dried diarrhea splats, blood and urine were all over the toilet bowl, seat and floor, the sink was also filthy, covered with weeks of grime. My Mother complained to the “nursing” staff and was told to “fuck off”. I should add my Mother was 78 years old at the time. However she and my sister bought in cleaning materials and scrubbed the place top to bottom. Dennis died 10 days later, I should say that the facility was the utmost in modern medical care, new buildings, new equipment, it is not the infrastructure that is at fault, it is the totally disconnected attitude of the personnel.
    Dear Americans: soon to come to a health care facility near you!
    If you have not experienced a socialist society it is very difficult, even impossible to understand the difference between a free, customer satisfaction based society and an entitled, victim based self centered “society” where nihilism and truculent self interest are the primary drivers of the attitudes of the populace.
    It is almost impossible to explain to Americans who are used to a level of customer service never achieved in Britain what the difference is. I have travelled to all but 4 states of this fantastic country, and found everywhere a friendly, polite and helpful people who have often gone way over the top in being “customer friendly” and this of course I emulate in my own business of electrical construction. Customers are first, always.
    I could go on but won't.
    Americans will learn, unfortunately, the hard way.