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Is universal healthcare a right? Essay

Universal healthcare

Support for universal healthcare is based on the argument that health insurance for all increase access to healthcare. With universal care, patients will comply better with treatment regime and, overall, the cost of providing care to the economy will be lower.

According to international human rights treaties, such as Article 25 of the UN of 1948, universal healthcare is a human right.

In America, left-leaning parties believe the government has the responsibility of providing access to healthcare. In contrast, right-leaning parties consider healthcare as a right to be determined by one’s financial ability.

The question of whether universal healthcare is a right or privilege is at the heart of debate on how to reform American healthcare.

Democratic Party seems to consider universal healthcare a right; therefore, the government should facilitate its establishment (Zerubavel, 2006).

Republicans consider government intervention in easing access to healthcare as tramping on people’s rights or interfering with their choice.

Is universal healthcare a natural right?

Natural rights emanate from natural law; natural law ethics system perceives actions as ethically correct if they are in harmony with human nature. Under this system of ethic, the rule is to do good and avoid evil.

A number of American presidents have tried to advance the notion of healthcare as a right similar to other rights known and recognized in American political tradition.

However, healthcare is not a natural right as John Locke or American founding fathers understood the nature of natural rights (Guillemin, 2006). Natural rights were in existence before the invention of a political state associated with government.

In that primordial state, there was no government to provide universal healthcare. The framers of American constitution provided for civil rights in order to protect people’s natural rights.

They did not consider that providing universal healthcare was decisive in protecting and realizing natural right of American citizens. This is despite the fact that medical care is essential for prolonging life.

Despite this, a case for providing universal healthcare is compelling; under natural law provision of universal healthcare amount to doing good.

Universal healthcare and utilitarianism

Utilitarian theory prescribes how to act, choose, or argue about various ethical issues based on the amount of utility that the consequences of people’s actions produce (Stewart et al. 2003).

Utility refers to the net balance of the good or happiness that the actions produce. The theory states that one ought to do or choose actions that yield the most utility, or those that seek to maximize utility.

One is supposed to act in a manner that promotes the interests of everyone in the society.

There are two aspects to the theory of utilitarianism: the act utilitarianism and the rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism seeks to determine the consequences of the actions performed in relation to the amount of good or happiness they yield.

It states that an action is right only if it yields the greatest amount of good or happiness to the greatest majority. Rule utilitarianism, on the other hand, states that one ought to act in line with the rules that are generally accepted in the community, and which would result in the greatest amount of good to the majority.

In Rule utilitarianism, an act is right if it is required by a rule or a set of rules, which if followed would result to greater good for the society (Macklin, 2004).

Lack of universal healthcare has had a lot of negative effects; hence, the persistent calls for the same. Although universal healthcare is not a right as such, and cannot be supported by natural law, it is obvious that its implementation would be beneficial for everyone.

Utilitarian theory closely represents my position because implementing healthcare would benefit all. Those without health insurance will get access to care, and the rest will benefit due to reduced cost of healthcare in general.


Guillemin M, Gillam L., (2006). Telling moments: everyday ethics in health care. East Hawthorn, Vic.: IP Communications.

Macklin, R., (2004). Double Standards in Medical Research in Developing Countries. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Stewart M, Brown J. B, Weston W. W, McWhinney I. R, McWilliam C. L, Freeman T. R, (Eds) (2003). Patient-centered medicine: transforming the clinical method. Oxford: Radcliffe Medical Press.

Zerubavel, E. (2006). The elephant in the room: silence and denial in everyday life. New York: Oxford University Press.

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