Ascension Healthcare is a non-profit, Catholic health insurer. Its definition of "Healthcare Ethics" succinctly states an answer to the question, "Is there a right to health care?"
From the perspective of Catholic moral teaching, the "right to health care" for all is not an optional stance. Rather, the right to health care is a human right founded on human dignity and the common good. Considered as such, health care is more than a commodity in so far as it is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity that ought to be provided for and to everyone. This absolute right to health care, however, should not be understood as an unlimited entitlement, but as a right that carries with it corresponding duties regarding justice, stewardship and the common good.
According to this stance, there is a right to health care that aims to preserve human life and dignity. I understand this statement as saying that there is also a duty of patients to cooperate with their health care, which answers Mile Hi Mama's concerns about noncompliance.
Years ago, I read a newspaper story about the undue feeling of entitlement shared by many Americans. The author wrote about a woman she had met who was being treated for infertility. She felt the health care establishment should do whatever it took for her to get pregnant, because that is what she needed to be happy, and the Declaration of Independence gives Americans the right to happiness.
Of course, there is no right to happiness in this world. The Declaration of Independence asserts a right to pursuit of happiness. And theologically, complete happiness is a privilege bought with Christ's blood and available only after death.
Similarly, a right to health care should not be confused with a right to health at all costs, as the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life pointed out three years ago. There cannot be a right to health at all costs because such a right would be at times contrary to the rights of others and to the common good. For example, a person needing a kidney transplant does not have a right to the kidney of a healthy person; it must be freely donated.
I am adopting Ascension Health's statement as my position on the right to health care. It is balanced by considerations of stewardship over available resources and the common good, and it makes good use of Catholic moral reasoning.
Do you agree with Ascension Health's statement? If not, what do you think is wrong with it?