Affirmation: Modern health care has achieved remarkable results, but is very expensive and increasingly unaffordable.
Analysis: The notion that “Health care is a human right” is a fine-sounding political sentiment, and underlies all Western medical thinking, but is unsustainable ethically, philosophically and practically.
Action: We must move away from the unsound principle that health care is a human right so that rational discussion can take place on the best application of finite resources. Honest and explicit rationing, based on agreed measures of cost effectiveness, would lead to a more equitable, affordable and workable national health care system.
Phil Barlow is a retired consutant neurosurgeon with a long interest in ethical and legal issues relating to modern medicine. Connected with this interest is a deep concern with the extent to which secular humanist ideologies have been assimilated not only into contemporary political thinking but also by the Christian church. Of particular note is the concept of human rights, and the notion that health care is a human right. Such a notion does not withstand even elementary analysis, but so many in the Christian community speak as if it is a Biblical principle (which, of course, it is not). Politicians are (justifiably) scared of talking about health care rationing but know it is the only workable solution to providing fair medical and surgical treatment. Surely as Christians we should be able to take the lead in guiding the discussion in society away from "rights" and towards "responsibilities".