Note: Dr. Eck is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, AAPS.
The idea that health care is a right might sound kind and compassionate, but in reality it is self-serving to those who would profit from Big Government in medicine – either by winning elections or reaping the financial benefits of the massive programs it demands.
The American Medical Association (AMA) considered Resolution 007, to decide whether health care is a human right, at its 2017 annual meeting this month.
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Unlike the unalienable rights listed in our Declaration of Independence, a right to "health care" is not self-evident. The rights to life, liberty, and property ownership (or "pursuit of happiness") are endowed by our Creator – not the AMA or the government. These rights belong equally to all. My right to liberty does not diminish yours.
"Health care" is not like that. Speaking against the Resolution, AMA delegate Dr. Ralph Kristeller of New Jersey correctly asserted that health care is a responsibility of each individual. People must develop good health habits of diet, exercise, avoiding substances that harm the mind and body, and avoiding risky behavior. Getting early screening for deadly diseases is also the responsibility of the person who would gain most by early detection – the patient. Seeking professional counsel – and following the advice – is also the patient's responsibility.
Calling health care a human right is clearly misleading. It is generally taken to mean medical services and payment for these services.
Before Big Government entered the medical arena in the U.S., there were many independent physicians in every town. In the 1950s, an office visit was $10, and the doctor earned a good living. When a child became ill, parents knew where to go for help, and payment was a secondary consideration. Many doctors waited for payment or, knowing the family, provided the services for free. Hospitals were local institutions, established by the town fathers. They were operated and staffed by well-trained doctors and nurses, who took part in helping the medical schools train the next generation of professionals. Charity fundraisers and robust volunteer services kept the hospitals places where kindness was the rule. Medical care was local, and the federal government had no role.
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In 1965, with the passage of Medicare and Medicaid, the huge infusion of taxpayer dollars caused an explosion in the cost of hospitalizations, and the commoditization of medical services ensued. MBAs, instead of retired physicians, took over the administration of hospitals, and today they command seven-figure salaries. Electronic medical records became a vehicle for exploiting the system as well as for attempts to control rampant fraud. Today, big hospital conglomerates are buying up independent medical practices to harness the revenue and thus control what the doctors do for their patients.
Once a service, paid for by somebody else, is declared a "right," it becomes immediately obvious that it cannot be an unlimited right, but only a claim on those services deemed appropriate by authorities or planners. Nor is everyone equal. Everything that is given to some must first be taken from someone else. My "right to health care" diminishes your right to liberty – such as your right to use your own earnings to buy a medical service you need to preserve your own life.
Medical services may be necessary for those who are ill, but food, clothing and shelter are necessary for all. If these were declared to be rights, it would mean the provision of food, clothing and shelter for every American: socialism in every part of the economy. How much food? How lavish a wardrobe? How big a house? And how much medical service can a citizen demand from others? Constant conflict and eventual shortages and impoverishment are guaranteed.
Instead of discussing how we can best serve those who cannot pay for their own medical care, we are increasingly vilifying medical professionals who don't provide what the government prescribes.
A better resolution for the AMA, which did not vote on 007, would be to educate the public about the fact that health care is first and foremost an individual responsibility, and to expose the disastrous ramifications of declaring it to be a right. It is now considering whether to announce that this man-made political entitlement is a newly discovered "right."