A Right to Health Care? Wrong!


by AAPS Director, Richard Amerling, MD

Years of debating liberal friends and colleagues has brought me to an understanding: This question is at the core of the debate. The absurd notion of a “right” to health care underlies the movement towards socialized medicine. If this right does exist, it becomes a moral imperative to guarantee it for all, i.e. “universal coverage.”

There is no question that President Obama believes in a right to health care; he stated during the second presidential debate in 2008, “I think it should be a right for every American.” He has also been captured in a radio interview describing the Constitution and Bill of Rights as a “charter of negative rights” and that the Warren Court didn’t go far enough towards defining “what the government must do on your behalf.” We are now witnessing this philosophy in action as the Obama administration fulfills its campaign promise to “fundamentally transform America.”

No right to health care has yet been unearthed in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or in any Supreme Court decision. The Declaration speaks of “unalienable rights” including the “pursuit of happiness.” There is no right to happiness itself, nor can there ever be.

Look at the Bill of Rights. There is nothing even remotely related to health care. Where specific rights are defined, the document is silent on how these rights are to be guaranteed. The second amendment guarantees the right of citizens to bear arms, but has never been interpreted as a mandate to provide arms to citizens. The sixth amendment defines due process in criminal trials and includes the right to have “the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” This did lead to court-appointed attorneys, but not calls for universal access to legal services. The first amendment includes freedom of speech, but doesn’t include free access to media (this was mandated by the “Fairness Doctrine,” thrown out during the Reagan administration).

The fundamental difference between a right to bear arms and a right to arms is that the former is free, while the latter requires labor to produce. There can be no right of individuals to the fruits of labor of another individual. Such an affirmative “right” ultimately treads on the liberty of the producer. One person’s “rights” lead to the trampling of another’s true rights to the pursuit of happiness. The end result is tyranny.

Whenever arguments devolve to this basic question, I ask, “Should there be a right to food, or shelter? Both are even more essential to survival than health care.” Suddenly backed into a corner, they answer “Yes.” Well, of course this concept led directly to governmental programs such as food stamps and farm subsidies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the entire Department of Housing and Urban Development, all taxpayer-funded wealth transfers that diminish the liberty and property of many to help a few.

The notion of a “right” to health care inspired governmental meddling that has all but destroyed the greatest health care system in the world. Beginning with the tax subsidy for employer-sponsored health insurance, on through Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, enormous unaccountable bureaucracies, direct third party payment with price controls and hyper-regulation, we are now on precipice of a complete government takeover.

Medicare, Medicaid, and many private insurance companies impose price controls on physicians and limit private contracting with patients. Price controls steal the true value of physician time, thus depriving doctors of liberty. These plus onerous regulations increasingly limit treatment options (see ObamaCare: The Assault on Physician Autonomy).

The endgame of the “right” to health care is the complete enslavement of the medical profession. With this comes enormous risk to the individual, who must now petition bureaucrats in order to receive care. We already know how this turns out by looking to the United Kingdom and Canada. Close examination of both countries expodes the myth that universal coverage leads to universal access to health care.

Health care is a complex combination of goods and services, involving the time, energy and labor of millions of individuals. It can never be a right. The government cannot provide health care; it can only compel others to provide it, with great loss of individual liberty, not to mention financial calamity. The best way to improve access to health care is through free-market capitalism.


  1. Agree. Free-market capitalism is the only way to go which will stimulate
    creativity: research and inventiveness in new products and technologies.
    We need a limit on malpractice lawsuits as well.

  2. Regarding “enormous unaccountable bureaucracies” and enslavement of the medical profession, the next tool in the arsenal of the meddlers is the cyberbureaucrat known as the electronic medical record.

    A once honorable pursuit, medical informatics, a field conceived to enhance medical care and research via computing, has been hijacked by the government and IT industry bedfellows as a tool for further bureaucratic control of medicine. The academics at the root of this field are either clueless, conflicted or ideologically kindred.

    Even the AMA and the medical specialty societies are concerned about ominous reporting requirements imposed to force a “lock in” to EMR’s, and control of the medical playing field. ( http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2010/03/ama-and-nearly-100-other-physician.html ).

  3. Yes, we do. If American’s had a right to a fair price of milk 50 years ago, and the farmers were regulated on what they could sell it for, then so does the health insurance regulations need to be enacted for fair prices medical care. If we could trust the free market, that would be best, but history has proven otherwise. Look what the free-market economy brought us? And why? Because of greed, liars, cheaters and thieves calling themselves capitalist.

  4. Thanks Dr. Amerling, The time is now for our profession to refuse to play the role of political chessmen (pawns) and to begin to recognize our responsibility
    to effectively resist this juggernaut of ideological chicanery. The sinister nature
    of these elected leaders, if not detered, will continue to not only enslave the free peoples of this land but will precipitate a response of unusual public activity that will transform our currently peaceful cities and towns into communities where
    conflict will take on demonstrable means. History gives us clear examples of this. Is there courage for us as physicians to unite and lead the way out of the multidecade social policies of Marxist ideologies that are now putting the capstone on our prisons; prisons that will isolate and imperil freedom-loving, hard-working, constitutionally oriented men and women, boys and girls? I hope so. Let us lead the way!

  5. Our Constitution and Declaration of Independence are very clear in defining where our inalienable rights come from, they come from God. If any right came from government, then government certainly can take away that right. This is about power and government control. If we relinquish our rights to government, then we will be the slaves of government. The revolutionary war was fought to establish freedom in America. Are we going to allow tyrants and traitors to take over our country? Give me Liberty or give me death. I will not go quietly.

  6. A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action when living in society. Rights only pertain to the realm of action and the consequences of those actions. If an individual produces something of value for human life it belongs by right to that person. He is free to trade the value produced, whether food, clothing, software or medical knowledge for something he values more, money for instance. No man has the right to claim the property or the effort of another man except by previous freely agreed contracts which in reason benefit both parties. The only way to violate an individuals rights is to initiate force against him by direct coercion or the threat of such force. America is the first and only moral government in the history of man because it was founded on the principle of individual rights. Read the Declaration Of Independence.
    For a more complete understanding of rights read Ayn Rand’s essays “Man’s Rights” and “The nature Of Government” in her book “Capitalism The Unknown Ideal”.

  7. I’m curious Janet L. are you in the medical field? Do you work or are you on any govt. subsidy? This info would help me understand this point of view because I can’t for the life of me understand how any hard working person feels that their government has the right to strip them of the fruits of THEIR labor to fund an entitlement program. The quality of a society is how they take care of those that need assistance, not by the tyrany of the govt. that takes from those that work and give to those that won’t. No one is not against health care reform. I am a doc and agree reform is necessary. the cureent cost of health care is unsustanable. NOT because of increasing cost of health care but the ever shrinking work force and tax payer putting monies into the pool of insurances. The demographics clearly show that as the baby boomers hit the age of govt. insurance, i.e. medicare, there is a trend towards a shrinking younger population who pay into this entitlement program. We are not making babies fast enough to replace the aging population. Your solution with govt. run health care is also unsustainable do to this.
    Why not do something simple like legislate portability, tort reform, extend medicaid to those who are truely in need and make congress live by the same rules of health care they legislate for us?

  8. Yes, and so is my sister, an ob/gyn, my brother in law, a MD, and 2 other sisters, nurses. And all feel the same as I do. We watched too much suffering to be worried about “rights”. Tort reforms have been under-way for years, and not going to help more than 10%, portability will also not make a dent, but malpractice insurance needs to have some limitations as well.

    Doing nothing is not an option.

  9. A right is something a society grants its citizens. When a person is born, his or her “rights” are established by the society in which we live. If we say that someone has a “right” for food or healthcare, then, by definition, if he or she cannot afford that right then he or she has a “right” to take from those who can afford it to provide their right. By making healthcare a right we open ourselves to governmental confiscatory practices to take from those who can afford something and give it to those who cannot. Our rights in America should be limited to giving the same opportunities to succeed to all citizens, nothing more. Going beyond that turns the greatest country in the world into a free for all grab bag where those who succeed have the product of hard work and ingenuity confiscated.

  10. Re: Jane Loeffler

    “We watched too much suffering to be worried about rights” (dropped your scare quotes.)

    You’re either a sockpuppet or just stupid.

    Really? Like this suffering? “Exhumation of Mass Graves in Iraq: Considerations for Forensic Investigations, Humanitarian Needs, and the Demands of Justice.” JAMA. 2003;290:663-666


    These people certainly worry now about rights.

  11. One of the arguments for this totalitarian HC bill is that the costs of our current system are “unsustainable.” Does anyone seriously believe Gov’t bureaucratic control with all of its inefficiency, fraud and abuse of yet ANOTHER entitlement on top of the current UNSUSTAINABLE Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security entitlements is a rational and humane solution? How can anyone think there won’t be rationing if government is the last and only payor left standing? Our current partial free market in HC is the best in the world and keeps Medicare/Medicaid “honest” and at its current level of quality, albeit extravagant quality, in spite of the deep, discounted bargain basement rates of reimbursement. There is a lot of free ‘Mercedes-Benz’ medical care currently given to the poor which people take for granted because they don’t live in Bangladesh and this is provided at the expense of individual Hospitals. Hence, costs are inflated for those who can/do pay in the remaining free market. HC insurance is really “pre-paid” medical care and the consumers are removed from the competitiveness of a true free market. So, it’s not the free market that has failed, it’s the government intrusion with its distortion of prices, the 3rd party payment scheme and a general population that takes unbelievable miraculous and, yes–EXPENSIVE, achievements of modern medicine for granted. Ask any Cancer survivor, anyone whose vision was saved by Lucentis therapy or anyone who had a timely MRI that detected a tumor that could have resulted in paraplegia. So, do I also have a ‘right’ to a Mercedes-Benz?