Foundation for a natural right to health care

J Med Philos. 2011 Dec;36(6):537-57. doi: 10.1093/jmp/jhr047. Epub 2011 Dec 13.


Discussions concerning whether there is a natural right to health care may occur in various forms, resulting in policy recommendations for how to implement any such right in a given society. But health care policies may be judged by international standards including the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The rights enumerated in the UDHR are grounded in traditions of moral theory, a philosophical analysis of which is necessary in order to adjudicate the value of specific policies designed to enshrine rights such as a right to health care. We begin with an overview of the drafting of the UDHR and highlight the primary influence of natural law theory in validating the rights contained therein. We then provide an explication of natural law theory by reference to the writings of Thomas Aquinas, as well as elucidate the complementary "capabilities approach" of Martha Nussbaum. We conclude that a right to health care ought to be guaranteed by the state.

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Diversity
  • Delivery of Health Care / ethics*
  • Health Policy
  • Human Rights*
  • Humans
  • Philosophy, Medical
  • Social Responsibility*
  • United Nations