Is there a "right" to healthcare?

Does the Church teach that mankind has a right to health care? If so, why not dental care? Or legal care? How about plumbing care or electrical care! I would just like to know whether it is within the competence of the USCCB to endorse health care initiatives based on documented church teaching. What separates health care from other types of care issues?

Yes, and what level of healthcare? If people have the right to basic food, basic clothing, and basic shelter, then I have no problem to people’s right to basic healthcare as long as it’s removed from their paychecks automatically, before the money can be spent on entertainment, fashions, drugs, and other luxuries.

There’s no justice if people find money to spend on those luxuries, then vote to screw others into paying for their healthcare. It’s dishonest, it breaks the 7th commandment, it’s theft. But the media propaganda instructs people to demonize anyone who seeks the truth if the truth makes one feel bad, as if feelings are more important than the truth. :eek:

I admit upfront that I am confused on this even though I am college educated and a lifelong Catholic. My comments should not be read as an attempt to justify a final answer, but rather just statements that should be considered in reaching a better understanding.

We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have other rights that have been established by law that are not “inalienable.” In 1776, life and liberty were huge issues. Kings could kill and imprison without a fair trial. Kings had to be controlled, at least in America, because they abused the God given right to life and liberty. Pursuit of happiness does not suggest any duty for others to be tasked to ensure one achieves happiness. Liberty suggests we are free to pursue happiness.

Thou shalt not kill seems simple enough. Yet killing in defense of self, others, nation is allowed. But it does not seem we are required to ensure that others are saved from death that is approaching though not by a positive act on our part. Sounds heartless, but I am just examining, not concluding.

The greatest commandment is to love God and to love others for the love of God. As the greatest, it supersedes the Ten Commandments. A command is a duty to perform. We are required to love others and will be judged by God on how well we did that in this life. Thus, we are our brother’s keeper. We are expected to look out for the well being of each other.

How do we look out for each other? At the high end, we could sell all our possessions and use our talents to provide all we can to others, taking no more than our fair share. Some Saints have including Mother Theresa on her way to Sainthood. At the “low” end, we are told to tithe. The percentage is debatable but Christ told the story of the poor woman who gave from substance and not just from her excess.

To keep this post somewhat short, we tithe in paying our taxes honestly and by contributing to various charities some amount that is more than minimal given our ability. A considerable amount of our money already goes to providing at least some health care to those who cannot or chose not to provide for themselves. We should always try to love as generously as our need to provide for our own families will allow. It’s a personal call, we answer to God.

Does our duty to love as best we create a right in others who need love? Thoughts?

Yes, all humans have a basic right to healthcare.

At what level and how that health care is provided is up for discussion, but such is the Social teaching of the RC Church.

I don’t have a reference readily available; perhaps someone else does.

We have the right to health care, I don’t think you’d find anyone arguing against that. Do we have the right to health insurance? No, that is not mentioned anywhere. The means as to how people have access to health care is up for grabs. Check out for some great points on the health care question. The Church does not endorse any single means for providing access to health care.

I’m still waiting for someone to be so kind as to provide references for “healthcare” as a right. I know that the Catechism mentions this in several places, but I don’t know whether this is a prudential teaching or a de fide pronouncement. I also know of several encyclicals which mention the subject. As I originally posted, why would this “right” be distinct from a right to good sanitation or legal care,since both could be seen as affecting the mental/physical health of the individual. The Catechism also mentions this right as befitting the government to provide, but as far as I can see makes no mention that individual physicians are obligated to provide this care. I see this as a slippery slope from which one could infer that all providers of any service that can impact health would be obligated to provide said services. If the Church does not/has not pronounced on this right, then we as Catholics could disagree on the need to reform healthcare on the basis of denying one’s right to it. We throw the term “right” around with abandon and this often clouds our perceptions.

Good points. Rights presuppose duties. We have a duty to help our fellow man in terms of food, shelter, etc. But to what extent this duty stretches and for what means (political, etc.) is not for the Church to define specifically.

By all means we can discuss and disagree on exactly how we meet our Christian obligations, in terms of providing health care, how to deliver it, how to pay for it, at what level is “basic” health care, etc. This is more a function of economics and, at least in the US, politics.

No. Health care is labor and capital intensive. By definition, it cannot be an inherent human right. This would effectively demote health care workers to subhuman slave level status (think about it).

Instead, we should frame the discussion with words of moral duty and charity. Each person is not entitled to health care. But each person with the means to assist IS required by charity to clothe the naked and tend to the sick (refer to the sheep and goats story in the gospels). It’s subtle, but has large long term difference in outcome!

I think we should have a government sponsored, Canda style national health care system that ONLY covers treatments commonly available in 1985 or earlier. If you want cutting edge treatment, buy insurance. As technology advances and cutting edge becomes routine (lower cost), we can move the cutoff date forward. Presto! Basic health care for all with costs that won’t bankrupt the nation.

Ah, but you’re looking at it through the lens of modern-day America, no?

I guess it depends on how one defines “health care”. If it means preventive vaccinations and health checkups, basic health care doesn’t have to be either labor or capital intensive.

Helping the sick doesn’t mean that we wait until they get sick to help them! Besides, it costs far less to prevent a disease or condition than it does to diagnose and treat it.

Now I do agree with you that there should be a health care safety net of some sort for the poor, but is a national system the best way to go? Canada-style, maybe, maybe not, I don’t know much about their pre 1985 health care.

Again, this isn’t the Church’s area of expertise, i.e. how to manage and provide health care. She only says we have a duty to help take care of our fellow man.

I have a right to housing, but the quality of my housing depends on my ability to pay for it. If I must rely on my Church or government, I know that the quality of my housing will be minimal, compared to what I could provide for myself if I earned $100K a year.

I have a right to an education. But it is free only through K-12 and it may not be high quality in some circumstances. If I want more, I have to pay.

Healthcare is a very elastic word stretching from simple inexpensive preventative measures to the most sophisticated expensive procedures.

Prior to the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare) America has provided Medicaid for the poor and our Medical Insurance companies have factored in a cost to our insurance premiums to cover costs of healthcare provided to those who cannot or do not pay for the healthcare they receive. We also subsidize the tution to train doctors and nurses and others.

I think it must be acknowledged that America does provide a basic level of heathcare for all, one way or another. But certainly not all of us have equal access to the care that a Bill Gates or a Michael Jordan would have. And not all of us have access that many have by paying about $10,000 a year (shared by employer and employee) for a family of 4.

To IMPROVE the current level of basic care, somebody has to pay MORE than they are now paying through taxes and medical insurance. The issue is, “Can the US Government FORCE its citizens to pay more?”

Obamacare forces everyone to buy health insurance. If one does not buy, one will be fined for that choice. IF one does buy, the government will help pay some share of the cost for any earning $88,000 a year or less. The government payment is from we who pay taxes (40% of Americans do not pay federal income tax). If the government is to pay more we must be taxed more. The more we pay for one thing we need, the less we have to pay for other things we need.

I think it significant that 26 of 50 states are suing in court saying that it is unconstitutional to force anyone to buy something, even if that something is good for them.

The theory of the right to healthcare must be tested against the reality of providing it. We already provide a minimum. The question is are we to be forced to provide more?

Then we need a better system.

How can we say someone has a right to life [or continued existance if we want to get technical] and then say “but you don’t have a right to health care”. Isn’t the right to life labour and capital intensive? Are we to tell peopel you have a right to life but to hell with you if you have diabetes, heart disease, cancer or a bullet lodged in your spleen?

I’m a nurse in a public hospital in New Zealand, and while we have a govt. funded health care system its far from perfect. I know people who’ve died waiting for much needed treatment that they could not afford in any capacity. I could be a greedy sod and head off overseas for more money, but right now my place is here, being understaffed, over worked and under paid, not to mention being under valued, by management and the general public for the most part. You’d be surprised what some peopel think they have a right to get away with when they’re a patient.

I think before we start massive funding campaigns into the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, we shoudl focus on good primary health care and prevention. Heart disease, obesity, diabetes [type II] are preventable conditions that cost the health care industry a rather large chunk of money.

I’ve watched my fair share of people die, people who had no idea how sick they were, and even if they did they couldn’t afford to go to their GP for a referal, usually they wait till they are obviously sick and come in through A&E.

We do their human dignity no favours when we reduce them to a dollar sign. Its repugnant.

I mean, excuse my bluntness, but if America can afford to bomb all kinds of snot out of the Arabs you can Hoover afford health care for your citizens, at least the most basic. Heck, how about getting rid of some of those weapons of mass destruction, I bet if you got rid of what, maybe 1000 nukes you’d be able to fund a fair few hip replacements and get a few chubby kids back on the track of good health.

Vera, ponder more of the problems you experience in your line of work and I think you’ll agree with me more. Because people tend to think of health care as a “right” they undervalue YOU as a health care practitioner. After all, it is their RIGHT to be treated for what goes wrong. Adequately funding the program, well, THAT’S optional, right? :wink:

Health care, housing and education are NOT inherent human rights. As a civil society, we have made a choice to provide these things (at a certain level) to all, but it should still be presented as society presenting people with a PRIVILEDGE, not a right. People appreciate it when they are given priviledges, but take rights for granted.

Actually, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, they are. Of course, don’t take my word for it. Check the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Can you be more specific as to location? I’m of course open to learning, but it’ll take me forever to respond to this post if I need to read the whole thing first! :smiley:

Paragraph 166, for starters.

You are correct. Here is the relevant paragraph from that document:

  1. The demands of the common good are dependent on the social conditions of each historical period and are strictly connected to respect for and the integral promotion of the person and his fundamental rights[349]. These demands concern above all the commitment to peace, the organization of the State’s powers, a sound juridical system, the protection of the environment, and the provision of essential services to all, some of which are at the same time human rights: food, housing, work, education and access to culture, transportation, basic health care, the freedom of communication and expression, and the protection of religious freedom[350]. Nor must one forget the contribution that every nation is required in duty to make towards a true worldwide cooperation for the common good of the whole of humanity and for future generations also[351].

The whole thing is available here:

Also, Gaudium et Spes, 26.

Actually, this is wrong. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, in paragraph 301 speaks of the right of workers “to insurance for old age, sickness, and in case of work-related accidents…”

Ah, steal my thunder. The compendium appears to be based on paragraph 26 of Gaudium et Spes. That original version speaks of both “rights and duties” whereas the compendium strikes that to just ‘rights.’

I remain concerned that framing this in terms of everyone having a ‘right’ to the fruit of the labor of others demeans the dignity of those doing the work of PROVIDING said ‘rights’, but I will ponder it. At the very least, the compendium seems less balanced in language than the council paragraph.

Well, we all, conservatives, liberals, and moderates will find that we can’t count on the social teaching of the Church always to underwrite our views. On the other hand, before you get upset, Catholic social teaching strongly affirms the responsibility of EVERYONE to contribute to the common good. Not just the state, not just the wealthy, not just the middle class, but EVERYONE. Futhermore, while I don’t have the time right now to find the exact reference, I distinctly remember reading in a Church document that the normal means by which one secures the right to health care is through one’s own work. The Church, so far as I understand, does not endorse a particular method for ensuring that access to health care is available; but she most certainly does teach that health care is a right, and that the state has an obligation to ensure this right (but again, the exact means are not dictated).

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