Intended for healthcare professionals


Health care is not a human right

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 31 July 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:321
  1. Philip Barlow, Consultant neurosurgeon
  1. Southern General Hospital, Glasgow G51 4TF

    EDITOR—The Tavistock Group has invited comments on its document on shared ethical principles.1 I would challenge its first major principle—that health care is a human right.

    A human right is a moral right of paramount importance applicable to every human being. There are several reasons why health care should not be considered a human right.

    Firstly, health care is difficult to define. It clearly encompasses preventive care (for example, immunisation), public health measures, health promotion, and medical and surgical treatment of established illness. …

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