Is There a Human Right to Private Health Care?

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In recent years we have noticed an increase in the turn to rights analysis in litigation relating to access to health care. Examining litigation, we can notice a contradiction between on the one hand the ability of the right to health to reinforce privatization and commodification of health care, by rearticulating claims to private health care in terms of human rights, and on the other hand, its ability to reinforce and reinstate public values, especially that of equality, against the background of privatization and commodification. While many hope that rights discourse will do the latter, and secure that access to health care should occur on the basis of need as opposed to ability to pay, it has actually been used to attempt to advance arguments that will allow access to private or semiprivate health insurance in ways that may exacerbate inequality. These types of arguments won ground in the Canadian Supreme Court, but were rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court. In order to avoid this co-optation of right to health, a notion of rights that incorporates the principles of substantive equality is required. Otherwise, one of the unintended consequences of inserting rights analysis into public health care may be that it will reinforce rather than challenge privatization in a way that may increase inequalities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-146
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Law, Medicine and Ethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013


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