ISSUES IN FOCUS
Week of July 19, 1998
A BILL OF GOODS
The push for a so-called patients’ bill of "rights" is yet another alarming perversion of the concept of rights, further corrupting its correct meaning, promising us more regulations, a further deterioration of freedom and the desecration of actual rights in the name of newly-minted "rights." If a patients’ bill of "rights" is enacted and if America eventually collapses into totalitarianism, this legislation will provide future generations with a case study of the manner in which America was delivered unto this evil.
The proliferation of managed-care organizations, including HMO’s, has largely been the result of statist regulations and mandates. Some of these organizations limit medical treatment in ways that can be dangerous to a patient’s health, causing many patients to be rightfully upset. However, rather than deregulate health care, statists are now calling for more of the very thing which created the problem in the first place: more regulations dressed up in the guise of "rights."
A right is a moral claim to action, action which may be taken without anyone’s permission. There is actually only a single, fundamental right: the right to life. The right to life is the moral declaration of your sovereignty, of the fact that your life is yours, that it is your property. All other rights are derived from the right to life and are really not special rights but simply applications of the right to life to specific categories of human activity. Since these rights are implicit in the right to life, there is a need to make them explicit in certain contexts.
The right of property, for instance, is implied in the right to life. Since your life requires the freedom to earn the material means needed to sustain your life, if you create and/or earn these material means, you have a right to control their use and disposal—which is the right of property. Property rights are subdivided into special categories to make explicit one’s rights in unique contexts. Copyrights, for instance, provide protection of material created by you and published in some medium of communication. Patents provide protection for inventions created by you. Trademarks provide protection for brand names and unique company names. Notice that all are expressions of property rights, that they apply to activities, not groups of men, and apply to and are available to all individuals. Copyrights are not the rights of writers, but an application of property rights which apply to all.
A right is universal—meaning: it applies to all individuals, not to a limited, special group of individuals. This means there is no such thing as "rights" of blacks, women, men, gays, so-called consumers, the disabled or any other group, including patients. There is no such thing as one group of individuals possessing rights not possessed by all individuals. Rights are universal.
It should be stressed what a right is not. It is not a claim to someone else’s money or property or life’s time (unless you have earned such a claim through the voluntary exchange with another). It is not a choice made available to you by means of depriving some other individual his freedom, his right to his own life. And it is not a claim which is to be gained through the initiation of force.
Given the foregoing, consider the patients’ bill of "rights" being proposed by Clinton and his statist cronies and the competing version being offered by Congressional Republicans, who do not have a clue what rights are and, not surprisingly, have no clue how to defend them.
Statists are seeking to mandate, among other things, the "right" to emergency services and the "right" to be treated by specialists. This means that some individuals are going to be forced, against their will, to pay for the medical treatment of others. It means that physicians will no longer have the freedom not to treat someone, if they judge such treatment inappropriate. Again, a right is not an unearned claim to someone else’s money or life’s time.
Forget that the most direct victims of these new "rights" will be physicians and the owners and stockholders of health-care organizations—just focus on the principle, the precedent being reinforced: that some individuals can be denied their freedom in order to provide some benefit to others, the kind of benefit an armed robber makes available to himself. And remember this: if they can do it to physicians, they can do it to you—to violate the rights of one individual is, in principle, to violate the rights of all, including you.
Anytime you hear some politician pushing for legislation to "protect" the "rights" of some special group, such as patients, you can be sure that such legislation will result in the violation of the right to life and liberty of all, including the very group it is allegedly seeking to protect.
July 19, 1998
© Copyright 1998 Fulton Huxtable
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To read more by Fulton Huxtable, go to Fatal Blindness: America's Decades of Declining Freedom and The
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