Rawlsian justice and a human right to health care

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 8 (4):329-338 (1983)
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This paper considers whether Rawls' theory of justice as fairness may be used to justify a human right to health care. Though Rawls himself does not discuss health care, other writers have applied Rawls' theory to the provision of health care. Ronald Green argues that contractors in the original position would establish a basic right to health care. Green's proposal, however, requires considerable relaxation of the constraints Rawls places on the original position and thus jeopardizes Rawls' arguments for the two principles of justice. Norman Daniels claims that health care is best understood as a means for helping to achieve Rawls' goal of equality of fair opportunity. Daniels acknowledges, however, that his interpretation cannot justify a basic right to health care; rather, it would at best require that certain kinds of care be made available to certain kinds of individuals. Finally, in place of the notion of health care is a human right, it is suggested that the provision of health care is a social ideal which may inspire the creation of specific legal rights. On this view, social provision of health care may properly vary significantly from culture to culture. Despite this variability, social systems may still be criticized on moral grounds. Keywords: justice, right to health care, equality, fair opportunity.



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