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Politics vs Humanity? Health Care and Fundamental Rights November 26, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Health care, Law, Ethics & Society, U.S. Constitution.
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Interesting juxtaposition in the New York Times online afternoon update today…The update  contains an article described as Administration Is Bracing for Setbacks to Health Law, which adeptly describes the democratic forces at play as the constitutionality of requiring everyone to obtain health insurance under the Obama health care plan is being challenged in the courts by various opponents including state attorney generals and members of Congress. All parties seem to agree that regardless of what any specific judge decides at the district level, the issue will ultimately wind its way up to the Supreme Court. There is also debate as to the repercussions of a finding of unconstitutionally of that section of the bill. Would that doom the whole bill?  That’s not clear in the language of the bill. So, essentially we have a program proposed by the Executive Branch, passed by the Legislative Branch, now being challenged in the Judicial Branch by various parties that include representatives of the states. Great–Democracy in action, civics 101–this provision is not scheduled to go into effect for three years anyway. All is good….Or is it?

Scroll down on the New York Times list and one is  reminded that the underlying issue in this democratic “exercise” is the fundamental right to health care. What on this list  jars the memory? A video report entitled South Korea’s War on Dementia. Seems that the government there has realized that within 15 years, 20% of the population will be over 65 and despite the tradition of families caring for their own elderly, there will be an imbalance in the ratio of caretakers to those in need of care. So, the government has launched a war on dementia and is on a mission to increase awareness, build nursing homes and provide health care training to its society, including the youth.

It is a compelling piece and one that brought to mind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948 as the world was still reeling from the inhumanity of the Holocaust and World War II. This document is still embraced by the United Nations as a reflection of rights to which all human beings are entitled. Article 25 states: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Article 25–laudatory goal or fundamental human right? Seems that given the fact that it was authored over 60 years ago, it remains both.  The juxtaposing of South Korea’s war on dementia with the ongoing battles in the United States over the health care system does not provide the ultimate answer as to how all people may obtain health care nor does it define society’s role in solving the dilemma.  However, it does highlight the underlying issue of humanity involved when one lives in a society in which socio-economic status may determine whether someone who is ill will have the opportunity to get well.



1. Ruth - November 27, 2010

It was in the late 1960s that health care in the United States was determined to be a right not a priviledge and that ushered in Medicare and Medicaid. I say “Amen” to that!!!

2. Scott - November 27, 2010

This blog entry is a wonderful reminder of the contract between process and intention. I believe most people wish good health for others and do not wish to see anyone suffer. In this regard we share a common intention. The political process is generally understood to be adversarial with a variety of issues at play that serve to further an “us” versus “them” consciousness. This dictotomy makes it challenging to see things clearly and possibly impossible for the melding of a group intention into a political victory enjoyed by that same group. We’ll see.

3. legalethicsemporium - November 28, 2010

This comment is not mine, but was written by a friend on Facebook….
Unfortunately, while most of the developed nations in the world believe that alienable rights include health care, retirement, shelter and food, the U.S. is still debating government’s role in its citizens lives. It is the belief of many Republicans (and certainly Tea Party advocates) that the government’s only role should be to arm and run the military — in other words, to protect its citizens. Yet they don’t see health care, shelter, food, etc. as protection. It’s an argument that makes little sense to me.

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