Letters to the Editor

Medical care is a right, not a privilege

In the letter “Franciscans aren’t ideal, but may have saved the center” (Oct. 30), Dr. Lyons rightly points out that it is unnecessary to be overly critical of Franciscan Health. Nonetheless, it also seems completely appropriate to point out where the services provided fall short of the need, especially for women and girls who may not be in a position to commute off-island for reproductive health care.

What is distressing, however, is Dr. Lyons’ broad assertion, “Health care is a privilege, not a right.” If, as Merriam-Webster defines it, privilege is “a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others; especially: such a right … attached specifically to a position” (also) “the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over other people in a society.” I would then ask, how do the un(der)privileged earn or attain the “privilege” to receive health care?

To me, the perspective of health care as a privilege reflects a worldview that is individualistic rather than communal. One that says we are here to take care of ourselves and “our own,” not truly to care for each other, especially those who do not have the wherewithal to earn or be granted the “privilege.”

I am, instead, inclined to look to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which I believe the United States to be a staunch defender: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his (or her) family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his (or her) control.”

I invite us all to consider this worldview and how it might be fulfilled, in this case, locally.

— Kathryn Yeoell

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