Yesterday, I laid out what I thought it meant to be human. At the core of life, if you ask me, are relationships (we should value and be engaged in relationships) and a desire for self-/corporate-actualization and improvement. There are lots of aspects of being human beings but arguably these are the most uniquely human.

In order to tackle the question of whether or not we should be pursuing universal health care, we need to figure out if humans deserve health care.

What are human rights?

What are humans entitled to because they are human?  There are many different perspectives everything from we have no more rights than animals on the planet to we have complete and total reign over every resource around us.  As with everything, there has to be some reasonable middle ground.

On personal levels, we sometimes hear that human rights are those things that only God gives you and only God can take away.  So let’s think about what a few of these could be.

  • life
  • ???

I’m up to one.

Some of us believe “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  I don’t have an objection to this other than to say I don’t know where we can find proof of this.  I believe that if you add ” . . . within certain boundaries” after each of those things, then that’s probably a little closer.

Modern day nations have tried to put some definitions to this concept too.  Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the US has a Bill of Rights, and even the UN has the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I’m sure many other nations have similar documents.  Each have a slightly different perspective – it’s interesting to compare and contrast the Canadian and UN charters with the US Bill of Rights, by the way.  None of them have consensus on what the rights of a human are – and the priorities are noticably different.

I’m going to assume that the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as it was drafted by several different nations, is most representative of the generally accepted list of human rights.

After article 1 which says that are humans are equal and should act towards each other with a spirit of brotherhood, it says this:

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Here’s a paraphrase of what they list as human rights….

  • life, liberty and security of person
  • no slavery or torture
  • equal as persons before the law
  • no arbitrary arrest/confinement
  • impartiality in determining rights and before tribunals
  • presumed innocence
  • no arbitrary interference with privacy
  • freedom of movement into and out of their country
  • right to asylum in other countries and a right to nationality
  • marriage
  • right to own property individually and in association with others
  • freedom of though, consciousness, and religion; expression and opinion
  • peaceful assembly
  • participation in government
  • social security (here’s the full text of article 22: Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.)
  • right to work
  • right to leisure
  • standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family (again, full text: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his 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 control.)
  • right to education
  • right to participate in cultural community
  • social/international order

The declaration finishes by saying that we all have duties and responsibilities to the communities in which they live and that these rights are inalienable.

Now, I don’t necessarily agree that all of these are rights necessarily – I think privileges at some point come into effect.  I don’t know that we have the “right” to leisure necessarily – it may be more of a privilege of being able to work and earn resources.  But I think this is an excellent jumping off point for the rest of our discussion.

I will say this: while I don’t necessarily believe that “free health care” is a human right, I do believe that  affordable access to sufficient health care is.  I also believe a couple of things about how this affordable health care should be provided, though granted not with any particular solution.  I believe that we have a responsibility to contribute to the improvement of our communities by giving out of our immense, incredible, unprecedented wealth so that others who are otherwise unable can be taken care of.

To this point, I’ve not spoken much of faith – though, as “everything is spiritual” I don’t think it’s hard to see the parallels.  Helping others live healthy productive lives makes the world a better place – which is what Jesus’ peeps are supposed to be doing.  I think there is a good case that the Bible teaches a lot about the responsibilities of of individuals and nations alike to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves.

Now, I know where this leads…. what about those who choose to not provide for themselves.  I don’t want to ignore that, but I don’t want to deal with it right now.  Next time: more about nations ensuring that human rights are taken care of. Decided against this…I’m not a theologian and there’s so much about nations in the Bible that I don’t understand…probably wouldn’t be responsible.