From self‐interest to solidarity: One path towards delivering refugee health

Bioethics 32 (6):343-352 (2018)
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Abstract

The recent and ongoing refugee crisis in Europe highlights conflicting attitudes about the rights of migrants and refugees to health care in transition and destination countries. Some European and Scandinavian states, such as Germany and Sweden, have welcomed large numbers of migrants, while others, such as the U.K., have been significantly less open. In part, this is because of reluctance by certain national governments to incur what are seen as the high costs of delivering aid and care to migrants. In response to these assumptions, some theorists have argued that the appropriate way to view the health needs of migrants is not in terms of rights, but in terms of the interests of destination and transition countries—and have argued that providing care to migrants and refugees will generate benefits for their host countries. However, self‐interest alone is less effective at motivating the provision of care for health deprivations that do not pose a threat to third parties, or to migrants and refugees in poor or distant countries. In this paper, I argue that while self‐interest is unlikely in itself to motivate the provision of all necessary health care to all migrants and refugees, and may risk stigmatizing already vulnerable persons, it can provide the foundation upon which such motivations can be built. My goal is therefore to show how and why a more just approach to the provision of health care to migrants can and should be derived from narrower, self‐interested commitments to preserving citizen health.

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Peter G. N. West-Oram
Brighton and Sussex Medical School

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