Healthcare: A Right or a Privilege?

There has been an ongoing debate in the global news especially most recently in the US and other developed countries, concerning the classification of healthcare as either a right or a privilege. This is not an easy issue to decide especially considering the fact that opponent and proponents of either of the above back themselves up with adequate supporting arguments from standard and accredited schools of thoughts. However, with a privilege being a unique benefit which a person or a society enjoys above others and a right being the conformity to community based standards of truth, justice and propriety, healthcare qualifies more as a human right than a privilege in the light that it is subject to all citizens; gender, age and social class notwithstanding.

Right or Privilege

In discussing the issue at hand, one of the ethical issues viewed as problematic is the consent of a patient to surgery. A surgeon is not in order to carry out any surgical operation without the approval of the patient. The extent of the patient’s illness does not matter in this case. It is within his or her authority to commission the starting of the operation. In the light of a surgery too, a patient must be fully conscious while consenting to the surgery process. Medical provisions practised ensure compliance with this regulation. This means that no matter the patient’s degree of pain, there is no issue of narcotics to him or she until a he or she signs the contentment. As a result, many patients end up giving in to surgery as the only way out to ease the pain.

In the wide field containing the moral theories that direct our actions as well as choices, we have the deontological ethics theories. This theories judge the morality of actions by holding that some actions cannot be justified by their yields; some are very good morally with outstanding consequences, but their forbidden choices. More specifically, there is monistic deontology and pluralistic deontology theories. Monistic deontology relates to generally praiseworthy actions that men prefer doing above the expected ones. It refers to actions that treat humanity in the right manner as felt by the person doing it and done from the motivation of duty. Pluralistic deontology refers to duties that generally hold rather than absolutely bind considerations. It refers to duties that are both beneficence as well as not malicious, that is, they help others without harming others(Butts & Rich, 2005). Deontological theories lay much emphasis on regarding people with respect since failure to do this leads to demoralization of the affected individuals. For example, if a medical research firm asks a doctor to prescribe a given medication from their firm though not certified by the national drugs body and the doctor does so for the monetary reward attached to that action, that doctor will have used that patient to meet his ends not considering what effects the patient might end up facing.

The challenge of ethical relativism is still an important feature even in nowadays ethics (Boundas, 2007). Ethical relativism is a topic that has received significant mentioning by most modern writers too. The theory put in its simplest stipulates this: if something is considered right among certain people and wrong among other people, does the first category view it as right and the other in the opposite. If that is the case, seeking a reason for the above would be advisable. Perhaps they assume a difference in the circumstances of the two groups, which facilitates an action repeatedly done by one group but always avoided by the other(Goodman, 2010). All the same, that kind of judgement fails to be relative since both groups of people share a commonly applicable principle.In the subject of egoism, there is need to differentiate between stating that one ought to do what one thinks best from stating that one will do what one thinks is best. If the latter were sensible, there would be no point in having the word ‘right’ in use in any circumstance.


My opinion in the issue of healthcare being more of a privilege or a right largely relates with the deontological theories. In their own elaborate manner, both the monistic and the pluralistic theories of deontology lay emphasis on how healthcare should be a right, which is my personal view in the light of this matter. The right to life is a human law subject in all countries across the globe and enforced by international human rights bodies. Good health is one of the ways of ensuring the continuity of one’s existence. Therefore, the chain behind this leads to a ripple effect that would mean that denial of healthcare leads to poor health to the citizens, which leads to possible death. Most of these actions, which I interpret to be healthcare denial, point directly to a certain individual. Owing to the fact that each output is a result of both the proceeding process and the inputs employed those who for whatsoever reasons deny healthcare services,are responsible for the outcomes of the victims involved and their actions are in violation with the human rights.


  • Boundas, C. V. (2007). Columbia Companion To Twentieth-Century Philosophies. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
  • Butts, J. B., & Rich, K. L. (2005). Nursing Ethics: Across The Curriculum And Into Practice. London: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  • Goodman, L. E. (2010). Some Moral Minima. The Good Society , 87-94.
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