Hertzberg: Health care: A basic human right
Do we have any rights when we are born into the human race? Or is it just a matter of chance, depending on whether or not we are born to parents who want us and love us even though we are nothing but mewling, urinating, defecating little animals? Most people throughout the world believe we have a right to tender care, which includes, at the minimum: food, clothing and shelter, hopefully rendered with love and compassion. We are entitled to survive and grow … to have a chance at a good life. If it is clear that parents are not providing these basic rights, civilized societies have determined that their infants may be taken from them to be raised in an alternate family or institution which provides these basic rights.
Are these “basic rights” the same as human rights? They are certainly part of human rights which have been catalogued very comprehensively in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10th, 1948, written mostly by U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Article 25 (out of 30) says that “all persons shall have a right to a standard of living adequate for the HEALTH and well being for themselves and their families, including food, clothing, housing and MEDICAL CARE…” The hallowed words of the Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4th 1776 state:
“We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson 11 years before the Constitution of the U.S. was written. Those words were almost a carbon copy of the words in John Locke’s (an Englishman) Second Treatise on Civil Government, except for changing “Property” to ” Pursuit of Happiness..” Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are human rights, acknowledged in our nation’s founding document.
What are civil rights? A textbook on American government defines them as: The right of every citizen to a fair trial, and the right to speak, meet, read, and worship freely without state interference. (This definition is a summary of the 1st and 5th amendments.) Civil Rights are found in the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, commonly called “The Bill of Rights”. These amendments were adopted in 1790, because the text of the Constitution contained NO civil rights with the excerption of “the writ of Habeas Corpus,” or the freedom from arbitrary arrest. Amendments 1, 4, 5 and 7 contain our most important civil rights. Most of the Bill of Rights was written by George Mason, a Virginian. The Constitution of the U.S. would not have been approved by the states without it.
Basic rights, human rights and civil rights are the great heritage we share as citizens of the United States. We never want to lose sight of the fact that it was Americans expressing such ideals that inspired the rest of the world and became the model for most of the democratic nations of the world.
It is obvious (self-evident) that in order to have life and the pursuit of happiness, one must have access to medical care. In addition, since the U.S. has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have acknowledged that medical care is a basic human right. Most western democracies are implementing that right far more effectively than we are in the U. S. President Obama is trying to improve health and provide medical care for all of us. One may argue about the details, but how can anyone be against the principle of medical care for all? As the Declaration states further: “Governments … derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The majority of those governed have spoken and given their consent for health care as a basic human right.
Drs. Ruth and Martin Hertzberg live at Copper Mountain.
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