The Right to Health: Why It Should Apply to Immigrants

Public Health Ethics 8 (2):148-161 (2015)
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Although the right to health is universal, many nations that honor it fail to do so in the case of non-citizen immigrants. In this essay, we argue that the reasons typically given for not extending the right to health to immigrants are without merit and that there are good reasons for nations to protect, respect and fulfill the health right of all immigrants. Contrary to the standard view, we argue that health can be understood as a global public good. Two important points follow: because health is non-excludable and non-rivalrous, it is in the health interests of nations to respect, protect and fulfill immigrants’ right to health. Furthermore, meeting the health needs of immigrants is an important way for receiving nations to meet the duties that may be generated by the benefits they incur as a result of health’s global public good dimension, thus ensuring that receiving nations are not free riders. We then argue that because citizens and immigrants dwell together, nations have duties of solidarity to immigrants with respect to health. Using the insights of social psychology, we show that solidarity among diverse people is both a reasonable expectation and a morally desirable one



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