Vital Needs, Human Rights, Health Care Law
Tranoy, Knut Erik
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 1996; 15(2): 183-188
Ethics and law are actually dependent and closely interacting, but also in some measure autonomous disciplines. Their balanced interaction is important for the attainment of a common aim and purpose: a good and just society. We now tend to agree that some but not all human rights should be supported by legislation. Some human rights are rooted in vital needs: the denial of a vital need causes death or serious disability. Rights rooted in needs recognized as vital have an exceptional long moral foundation. But "NN has a right to x" can be understood in two ways: either as a right to seek fulfillment of the need with the means and money at his disposal, or as a right to obtain fulfillment of the need. Article 25 of the U.N. declaration of human rights recognizes the right to health care as a human right. Clearly, need for health care in cases of serious illness should be understood in sense: as vital need generating not only (in sense 1)" a weak right to seek, but (in sense 2) a strong right to obtain fulfillment. This amounts to a powerful moral argument for the use of legislation to establish equal access for all to (at least) "basic" health care. Even if this is "no more" than a moral argument, it does have the advantage over legislation that the validity of a moral argument is not restricted by national borders.
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