Posted by: bridget | 4 September 2007

The Loss of Negative Rights, Part II

In a previous post, the pachyderm described the philosophical/legal implications of negative rights v. positive rights.  The question to be addressed here: who cares, and why?

He noted, for example, that women would be required to have regular mammograms in an effort to find and treat “the first trace of problem.” Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, announced earlier this year that her breast cancer had returned and spread.

Would an earlier mammogram  have saved Elizabeth Edwards this ordeal?  Perhaps – she had not had a mammogram for the four years prior to her diagnosis, even though they are recommended for all women over the age of 40; Edwards was 55 when diagnosed. Yet, the data are conflicted: some studies show that earlier detection does not increase the life expectancy of women, while other studies show a decreased mortality rate.  (Some of this is due to the way that mortality rates are calculated – usually around five years.  If, in 2007, a woman’s breast cancer is instantaneously detected, and she survives until 2014, she will not be included in the five-year mortality rate.  A woman who finds the same exact cancer in 2010 (having had it since 2007) and lives until 2014 will be included with the mortality rate; yet, neither woman really out-living the other: both got cancer in 2007 and died in 2014.)

Moreover, Elizabeth Edwards is an intelligent, educated woman with a very wealthy husband.  To top it all off, he inspires fear in doctor’s hearts.  Yet, Mrs. Edwards did not go for routine mammograms; she is not foolish, unaware, or unable to afford this.  It is against this backdrop that we should analyse the results of universal health care.

There is one basic assumption that will be made: good health care costs money.  Second assumption: the government (and taxpayers) do not like to spend money, especially on other people’s health care.  So, the infringement upon freedom which results from universal health care (and the erosion of negative rights):

  • Under the current system, a patient who is denied coverage can appeal through the court system for relief.  The government may prohibit this based on sovereign immunity; even if it does not, juries may be reluctant to give away their very own tax dollars for expensive, unproven treatments. 
  • The government will have a vested interest in euthanasia.  The elderly and the dying require a lot of health care resources and, generally, do not contribute to the tax base.  There is something distinctly creepy about a government with a financial interest in euthanasia; citizens cannot protect themselves from their health insurer or physician by government regulation or through the court systems.
  • The government will have a vested interest in reducing live births and premature births – or at least in keeping preemies alive.  Abortion is a lot less expensive than labour and delivery ($400 v. $10,000); the costs of the latter rise dramatically when there are complications or when a baby needs neonatal care.  Add to that: the children of young, single, and unwed mothers have worse outcomes.  If the feds read Freakonomics, will they try to reduce the crime rate by promoting abortion?
  • The politicising of medicine: think medicine is political enough already?  At least now, Catholic hospitals can not offer birth control, abortions, or sterlisation if they do not want to.  A government-run system will endanger religious freedom.  Yes, your tax dollars can be used for purposes which you find to be immoral – and, unlike military engagements, have no legitimate connection to government function.
  • Conflicting government coverages.  Will the government cover experimental therapies?  Forbid them?  Require them?  Mammograms are recommended for women over 40 every year, unless they have no other risk factors; yet, this may not save lives. This means that people will be subjected to unnecessary medical treatment (HRT and high-dose chemo, anyone?) by government force (with the threat of deprivation of liberty or property for those who do not obey, even if such denial of care is rational). 

Finally, with a hat tip to Total Transformation, you can expect government intrusion into your daily routine.  The Tory Party in England recently suggested that the national health care system ought to stop covering fat persons, who use a disproportionate share of medical resources.  The great irony is that the system which Michael Moore advocates in Sicko would, ultimately, exclude him from medical coverage. 

The theory behind universal health care is that health care is a basic human right and ought to be enjoyed by everyone.  Reality, however, tells us that some people (the old, the very young, and the obese) use a disproportionate share of resources.  The logical consequence of socialised health care is to protect Elizabeth Edwards from herself by use of government force upon everyone else.

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Responses

  1. “The government will have a vested interest in euthanasia.”

    I like the insurance model better. I prefer it when people root for me to live.

    “The great irony is that the system which Michael Moore advocates in Sicko would, ultimately, exclude him from medical coverage.”

    I may have to re-think my position now . . .

  2. Right, Neil. We really should look at combining life and health insurance, so that they REALLY have an incentive to keep you well.

  3. “Moreover, Elizabeth Edwards is an intelligent, educated woman with a very wealthy husband. To top it all off, he inspires fear in doctor’s hearts. Yet, Mrs. Edwards did not go for routine mammograms; she is not foolish, unaware, or unable to afford this. It is against this backdrop that we should analyse the results of universal health care.”

    My point exactly!

    And I am sure they would cover more if he would pick up jogging and drop a good number of pounds. :-)

  4. Moore not more..lol.

  5. PatHMV,

    I like that idea. It won’t be cheaper to let people die.

    Neil,

    Yeah, I do, too. I also would prefer it (given that 15% of people who undergo “assisted suicide” did not even consent to the procedure) if euthanasia were illegal.

    TT,

    Liberals get all wound up when Darwinism calls out one of their own. ;) I know it’s harsh and I should be sympathetic, but, really, is it now America’s fault that a 50-year-old woman didn’t get a mammogram?

  6. TT’s article was a great find!

    “The great irony is that the system which Michael Moore advocates in Sicko would, ultimately, exclude him from medical coverage.”

    LOL! That’s so true!!! Good point Bromo. (I’d bet money Chubby Moore uses the U.S. healthcare system—what a hypocrite.)

    And Neil, I think the current insurance systems could be improved, but they are the best in the world.

  7. I am inclined to agree with Jay about current insurance systems. They have some serious problems, but I think they could be fixed.

  8. […] Why negative rights matter, and how positive rights erode them. […]


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