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IPFS News Link • Healthcare

TGIF: The Mythical Right to Medical Care

• by Sheldon Richman

Sanders condemns as a "national disgrace" the lack of a medical care guarantee for all — rich, poor, and in between. Medical care, he insists, should be "a right of citizenship." Then, echoing someone in the audience, he changes that to "health care is absolutely a human right."

The remarks by Friedman from the '60s and '70s chosen for the video address the efficiency problems with government-run medical services, including the inevitable restrictions on consumer choice. Politicians and activists may feel good when they passionately declare that the government should guarantee all people medical care. Unfortunately, such declarations neither create nor deliver quality care justly or efficiently. Friedman was a long-time advocate of the separation of medicine and state. In his 1962 book, Capitalism and Freedom, he called for, among other things, the end of medical licensing, and he defended that view in these recorded remarks before a group of presumably uncomfortable doctors at the Mayo Clinic.

Since Friedman spoke as an economist, not a political philosopher, in his remarks, I thought I'd say something about the rights issue that Sanders raises. To pick a nit: Sanders needs to make up his mind. Is medical care a right of American citizenship or a human right? I don't see how it can be both. The term human right suggests universality, while a right of American citizenship does not.

But let's leave that and look at this purported right. The first thing that occurred to me is that this "right" doesn't match its billing. Medical care is not like air or water; it doesn't appear naturally. On the contrary, the many services and products that constitute medical care must be created through human effort.

Anarchapulco 2023