What do we mean when we declare that health care is a basic human right?

Published: 11/13/2019 4:37:40 PM

(Last week, we asked readers this question: “Do you believe health care should be considered a basic human right?” Here are the responses we received.)

The Founders’ vision

I believe health care should be considered a basic human right. It is in keeping with the highest ideals of our Founders. The Declaration of Independence states that all “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The use of the word “among” in the Declaration makes clear that, for the Founders, there were other “unalienable rights” that go unmentioned.

The terms “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” are broad concepts left undefined. These concepts embody our nation’s aspirational ideal of a true democratic republic: a nation “of the people, by the people, for the people.” No one can achieve her or his aspirational goals without good health. In a democracy, good health should not be a matter of luck alone. Making health care a basic human right is in keeping with the highest ideals of the Founders, and of men like Lincoln and FDR who came after them. Now is the time to make this ideal a reality.

BRUCE CURRIE

Concord

America the outlier

Do I believe that health care should be considered a basic human right? I respond to the question with an emphatic yes.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) affirms the essential human right to health. The international community, moreover, recognizes the right to health care. Except for America, every industrial country has a universal health care system.

KENT HACKMANN

Andover

A national declaration

Good government advances the health and well-being of its people. Our 18th-century Constitution outlines such aspirations. Today, the lives and wages of average Americans have suffered as medical costs have become unsustainable, and our health outcomes continue to trail the developed world.

The “rights of corporations as people” allows unlimited donations of dark money to swamp our political process. BigPharma lobbyists have written legislation that offers “safe harbors” from antitrust laws, and prohibits Medicare from negotiating drug charges. The “constitutional right” of drug makers to reap obscene profit by extending patents and exploding drug costs for medicines, such as insulin, takes primacy over “rights” of Americans whose lives depend on such drugs. Corporate lobbyists and presidents trumpet the “right” for the wealthy to find loopholes to avoid taxes, while conservatives devalue or ridicule the governmental promotion of “the general Welfare.”

A right to health was considered fundamental in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Codification of a right to health care preceded the creation of successful national health programs in Taiwan and elsewhere, and has been part of 94% of national constitutions adopted since the 1990s. We remain the only developed nation to neglect the necessity for automatic, accessible, universal and affordable health care. Perhaps only with such a national declaration of health care as a basic human right can we reconfigure the corporate medical complex that currently perverts the goals of both medical care and good governance.

Dr. KENNETH DOLKART

Grantham

Fear of ‘disintermediation’

As the arguments surrounding “Medicare for All” become more contentious, it is vital to embrace the notion that health care is, and ought to be, a basic human right. With a number of Democratic candidates abandoning their prior endorsement of a single-payer system, it is important to understand the origins of this change of heart. Opponents of Medicare for All suggest that adoption of a single-payer system would adversely and dramatically affect our freedom to choose our providers, diminish the quality of care and accelerate health-related costs.

As a family physician with 32 years of clinical experience and as a current beneficiary under Medicare, I am confident that freedom of choice would expand, quality and outcomes would improve with universal coverage, and the cost of care would most likely go down (given the potential to actually negotiate pharmaceutical prices, significantly cut administrative costs and apply global budgeting to hospital systems).

The health insurance industry, as well as other for-profit players in the game, are deathly afraid of “disintermediation,” which I discovered to be an actual word to describe their fear of becoming irrelevant as intermediaries who really don’t contribute value. They are throwing buckets of money into lobbying efforts to convince politicians to adopt their scare tactics, adorned with terms like “government takeover” and “socialism.” In fact, improved and expanded Medicare for All is publicly financed but privately delivered care. A peer-reviewed article titled “Economic Analysis of Medicare for All” by Pollin et al., from UMass, indicated that health care spending would be reduced by 10% while providing access to care for all Americans. Efforts to cobble together remnants of the ACA will neither control long-term costs nor provide universal coverage, while ushering patients into a dark tunnel of immense bureaucratic complexity and untold financial risk.

There are currently bills before the House (HR 1384) and the Senate (S 1129) in support of Medicare for All, yet our New Hampshire representatives and senators have failed to sign on as co-sponsors or offered viable alternative plans for full coverage of all of our citizens. We are left to question the ulterior motives of politicians from both parties who object to true universal care, and perhaps to wonder if they believe that health care is a human right after all.

Dr. ROBERT S. KIEFNER

Concord

Undoing past mistakes

Our Declaration of Independence says that among our rights are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It wasn’t specific about health. To me, life and the pursuit of happiness are a definition of health. Last week’s “Perspective” article in the New England Journal of Medicine is titled, “The U.S. Insulin Crisis – Rationing a Lifesaving Medication Discovered in the 1920s.” Frederick Banting and John MacLeod sold their patents for insulin in 1922 for $2, with Banting saying: “Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world.” They both won the Noble Prize in 1923.

Health care in the 1920s was all fee-for-service, but these were direct bills mostly from doctors, a few hospitals, and sometimes paid with chickens and eggs. Government first got involved in 1965, creating Medicare/Medicaid when chicken and eggs were not enough, particularly for the elderly and very poor (65 was elderly in 1965). There were laws at that time against health insurance being for-profit (your old Blue Cross-Blue Shield) and there were attempts to make health care a clear right. That changed in 1973 when President Nixon was convinced by Edgar Kaiser (of Kaiser Permanente) to sign legislation to allow for-profit insurance companies to exist, initially as HMOs. This allowed you to buy stock in a for-profit insurance company with the hope that the premiums would exceed the pay-outs to providers. However, the “you” were only those who could afford to buy the stock. The Affordable Care Act of 2009 (Obamacare) was the first real step since 1965 to try to make health care a right. But without the public option part, the success for the act was still in the hands of the for-profit insurance companies because of the 1973 law.

In 1922 the new insulin drug saved many lives and by the 1940s, 100 units cost just 20 cents. Today the cost is $18. It is becoming unaffordable and diabetics are either rationing or not taking it at all. This has never happened before with insulin in our country, not even during the rationing in World War II. In Canada you can buy insulin without a prescription for 15 times less than in the United States. The three drug companies selling insulin in the United States require a prescription and have the right to charge what they want based on what the they think the market can bear.

For-profit insurance companies have some state regulation but this in general does not stop premiums from going up, again based on what the market can bear.

The trend for government to help make health care a right over the last 100 years exists (1965 and 2009), but I think Nixon’s signature 9 months before he resigned with an impeachment coming was a huge step backward. It was a declaration by our government that corporate profits for drug and insurance companies were more important than the right of health. The idea was sold by saying competition in the markets would lower the costs and make health care affordable. Affordable for whom?

People are dying daily in the United States now because they can’t afford their insulin. Affordable health care should be a human right for all of us. We will all need to be part of the solution, which is to act now by voting to remove the mistakes made since 1973.

NICK PERENCEVICH

Concord

There is no debate

Should health care be considered a basic human right? Is this still a debatable question in 2019 America? Seriously?

On July 4, 1776, the words of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson were adopted by the Second Continental Congress, words that are among the most well known in the English language: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.”

What could be more truthful and self-evident in this context almost 250 years later than the basic human right of health care? And “unalienable” – as it must not be “taken away” – because without health and health care, could there be, in Jefferson’s words, Life or Happiness?

But we need not look back centuries for such affirmation. During the dark days of World War II, President Roosevelt called for the Four Freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear and freedom from want, and the United Nations charter signed after the Allied victory affirmed these as basic human rights. To be more specific, in 1948, the United States voted for and helped pass the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in Articles 22-27 affirms the right to adequate health and well-being, including specifically medical care and necessary social services.

Today, no credible politician openly challenges the basic human right of health care. The debate is only about health care finance, what we might title the “right to bankruptcy” (the opposite of the right to affordable insurance coverage). But hospitals and emergency departments are required by law to provide care irrespective of ability to pay, and every community and municipality, state and even the federal government have tried to address the medical-financial needs of the economically less fortunate in one manner or another. The point is that we do it in a most haphazard, inefficient and ultimately ineffective way.

The debate that will hopefully bring us a more centralized “Medicare for All” is as much about our morality as our economic sensibility. No modern society would survive, or deserve to, leaving its sick and injured in the street, and we wouldn’t deserve to be called “human” if we denied needed medical care to others around us. So to quote Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate change activist who electrified our country with her leadership about another great policy moral question of our time, we should challenge anyone who questions the basic human right of health care: “How dare you!”

Dr. GARY SOBELSON

Concord

An answer shaped by experience

Of course health care is basic human right.

No woman, infant, child or man, whether living in a wealthy nation or in Third World poverty, should be denied treatment for the pain and suffering of illness. If we are people of conscience, a society of conscience, a world of conscience, then this is a given. “Do unto others . . .”

In my 45 years of primary care in the North Country, I have been fortunate to work in settings – public health service sites, not-for-profit clinics, federally qualified health centers and community hospitals – where my colleagues and I never had to turn a patient away for inability to pay. Recognizing and respecting a patient’s right to care, and providing that care to the best of our capabilities, is at the heart of the decision made by me and many of my colleagues: to accept the responsibility and privilege of becoming a physician.

So yes: To me, and to many other caregivers, health care is a basic human right.

Dr. JOHN A. McDOWELL

Gorham

Profits over care

I am a retired physician, with Medicare for 13 years and supplemental private health insurance. To many accounts with private health insurance denied or delayed medical services, I add my story.

Recently, I developed diplopia (double vision), affecting balance and navigation. Dreading possible serious causes, I was taken to the nearest hospital ER. After diagnostics, and hospital admission for more tests yielding negative results, brain MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) was scheduled. MRI was canceled; the MRI agency was “out of network.” My insurance would not pay. A “surprise medical bill” could cost $3,000. MRI was rescheduled at the hospital where my PCP works – delaying crucial determination of my double vision cause.

Limited “in network” violates “freedom of choice.” Universal health insurance would deliver needed care without delay anywhere.

Our multi-payer system delivers profits, not health care. With diagnostic tests or treatments delayed or unaffordable, death or disability can result – also depletion of savings and bankruptcy due to medical bills.

Annually, enrollment opens for health plan coverage; thousands of plans offer “affordable” packages. Personal predictions of health status the following year govern choices, often dictated by financial means. This annual guessing game will disappear with universal health care.

In 1966, the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) treaty was ratified by all U.N. countries except three (U.S., Palau, Comoros). Article 12 clarifies “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” “Health” in this context is not just health care, but a right to control one’s own body, including reproduction.

The 193 United Nations member states are subject to “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR) on rights protected by UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). The U.S. government’s 2015 report to the U.N. touted the Affordable Care Act (ACA), regulated private health insurance instead of a health care law. Not basic rights to health.

The U.S. UPR is due in 2020. Call on both political parties to truly represent us, not the “health” insurance and drug industries – instead support nonpartisan bills already in Congress, H.R. 1384 in the House and S. 1129 in the Senate. Time to adopt single-payer improved Medicare for All – recognizing health care as a fundamental human right. The Social Security and existing Medicare enjoyed by Americans age 65 and up works well; Medicare for All brings health benefits to all Americans throughout life.

Dr. MARCOSA SANTIAGO

Rumney

The patients I write for

There are very few among us, regardless of political affiliation, who would walk past a bicyclist lying on the pavement after having been hit by a motor vehicle. Very few of us would decline offering immediate help to a lost and injured toddler. I have seen beauty in human compassion that rises above politics and corporate profit. This sanctity is the essence of health care as a right: a right to live with inherent dignity. May we as U.S. citizens pledge to treat our fellow human beings with the honor and respect they deserve. As a democracy, may we pledge to care for the most vulnerable among us. We must urgently recognize how quickly life can change for any of us.

The United States can be the leader for health equity – better than England, better than Canada. Let us honor the sacrificed lives of our ancestors and all the painful lessons we have learned building this amazing country, a beacon of hope and compassion for so many. Our potential to excel in the field of medicine and stand on sacred moral ground is exhilarating. The World Health Organization eloquently defined health care as a basic human right in 1946. Highest attainment of health is without question the right of every human being: care that is affordable and of the highest quality.

As a physician, I witness the inequities of our complex system every day. I write on behalf of the patients whom I have had the privilege to serve. I write for a mother’s right to bring her 3-week-old child with a 103 fever to a medical clinic that serves as the family’s organized medical home, instead of delaying care and entering the “safety net” of an ER with a septic newborn, too late to intervene with simple antibiotics, too late even for the tens of thousands of dollars to be spent on the most advanced pediatric ICU interventions. I write for the adolescent minority teen-patient whose school performance and life trajectory declines due to his inability to afford $600/month for his Advair asthma inhaler. I write for the under-insured hard-working couple who avoids care for treatable depression and coronary artery disease for fear of not being able to pay their rent due to their $10,000 deductible on their health insurance plan. May we all take a moment of silence, and then proceed together on the right path forward.

Dr. JOANN BUONOMANO

Somersworth

Let’s just do the right thing

We are asked, “Do you believe that health care should be considered a basic human right?” I guess it depends on what we main by “a basic human right.” The American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) don’t have anything to say about it. The World Health Organization says that health care is, indeed, a human right, but they have to worry about the whole world, the Third World.

Let’s talk about the United States, about New Hampshire, about the town I live in (Hanover, wealthy) and the town I used to live in (Bath, not wealthy). In all of our towns and cities we receive a range of essential public services, which we pay for with our taxes. We have a fire department, a police department and schools for our children. No one asks if we have a right to these services. It is understood that having these services is what makes us a community. When my house is on fire or my house is robbed, the firefighters and police officers come to help, regardless of whether I’m rich or poor. They don’t ask me to pay for their help. They don’t ask if I have insurance to pay for their services. And when my kids turned 5 they could go to school; heck, they had to go to school. We all know that our communities will thrive only if our children are educated.

Well, by that measuring stick – yes! – we should all have access to health care just as we have access to police, fire departments and schools. How can we grow and thrive if we’re not all healthy? Let’s not get hung up on a philosophical discussion about what a “human right” is. Let’s just do the right thing. I understand that we have to determine which medical care services should be available to everyone, and which are discretionary. But the ACA, “Obamacare,” has done a good job of clarifying which medical services are essential.

Let’s make sure that everyone has those services. Let’s make sure no one has to choose between food and prescriptions and heating oil or goes bankrupt buying medical services. Let’s make sure that our communities are safe and healthy. And – if you like – let’s consider that a basic human right.

DONALD KOLLISCH

Hanover

It’s not complicated

One of my family members, a secondary school teacher, has a chronic, debilitating arthritis of the spine, had kidney failure and a kidney transplant, depression and last year fell cleaning his floor and broke his hip, requiring hip surgery. He lives alone on a disability pension. He, like all people, deserves good health care as a human right.

I’ve worked as a physician for the Veterans Health Administration for 19 years delivering primary care to veterans. All veterans deserve and get high-quality health care because we as a country consider it right and just. All people contribute to the prosperity and safety of our country and deserve health care when they need it.

It’s not complicated. It’s just the right thing to do. Health care is a basic human right of all people.

Dr. JIM SCHLOSSER

Concord

Awaiting political will

Child labor laws to protect against abusive labor practices exploiting children. A 40-hour work week to allow workers to spend time with their families. Workers compensation for injuries occurring in the workplace. Social Security to financially protect dependents and disabled workers. Medicare health benefits for retired workers and people unable to work. These are all benefits to citizens that have been adopted over time and accepted as basic rights. They all required political will to make them law.

It’s time that we recognize that among these basic rights is the right to access health care without regard to employment status or socioeconomic factors. The health and welfare of our citizens reflects the health and welfare of our nation. Single-payer health care is a key component of this.

Dr. ELIZABETH SANDERS

Hopkinton

A haunting question

My answer to this question is a resounding yes! Every citizen in this country deserves the access to care every other citizen receives.

In my career as a physician, the patient always came first. The patient’s insurance status was an inconvenient reality. If the patient needed help, he needed help, and I went to bat trying to secure what was needed. This was sometimes like a sinkhole swallowing up my time, requiring multiple phone calls (with endless periods on hold), letters, appeals, forms, compromises and searches for special programs to pay for treatments. And often this was for patients with insurance. If I was willing to give my time and energy to helping patients, it needed to follow that the patients could access the treatments I recommended.

The patient who most clearly drove home for me the need for access to care was a man who was exactly my age – month, day and year. I first met him when I was in training and he was hospitalized with a serious illness from which he made an incomplete recovery. He was able to return home, and I was able to connect him with services and start him on treatment. However, he was unable to return to work. He therefore lost his job, and of course he lost his insurance.

He was unable to afford the treatments and did not return to see me. The next time I saw him, more than a year later, he was admitted to the hospital through the emergency room, desperately ill, with a condition that would have been preventable if he had had access to care. This young man, exactly my age, deserved better than this. If I should have access to needed care, why shouldn’t he? It’s a question that has haunted me ever since.

I have heard politicians glibly saying something to the effect that not everyone wants health care, so why should they be forced to pay for it? That is utter nonsense! It needs to be a priority for our government to support ways for all of us to have access. Those who feel their own needs outweigh those of the others around them would do well to consider the plight of my patient from years ago. There for the grace of God go all of the rest of us!

MILLIE LaFONTAINE

Concord

Goals we can agree on

We should all agree on the basic goal of health care, that everyone should receive it when they need it. Hopefully we do. However, it should not be a question of whether one can afford it. This, too, should be another goal that we all agree on: Health care should be affordable for everyone. Hopefully we do. Once we have shared goals, we can then debate, and decide, on how such health care should be delivered. Let us all agree on these goals.

When I was young, we did not need health insurance; the costs of health care were affordable for all. Private insurance corporations have changed this. We should all ask, is the current system, satisfying our health care goals? It seems clear that the current system of for-profit insurance corporations does not achieve the satisfaction of those goals, not for the average citizen, not for employers, not for health care workers.

For a modern 21st-century society like ours, the system we have is clearly not the best health care system in the world. There are many countries that have much better systems. Entrenched ideas and insistence on the profit motive with regard to health care is not healthy. Consider what approach is better, advocate for it and vote for it.

TERRY DOWNS

Rumney

A system based on profit

On Dec. 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which included Article 25: “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.”

The right to health is universally recognized as fundamental to human dignity, freedom and well-being. In 1946, the World Health Organization defined health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The WHO constitution goes on to define the right to health as “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health,” and enumerates some principles of this right as healthy child development, equitable dissemination of medical knowledge and its benefits, and government-provided social measures to ensure adequate health.

This does not mean we have a right to be healthy but we do have the right to be as healthy as possible within the limits posed by our bodies and behaviors. Many external factors influence our health, such as the environment, housing and workplace conditions, and medical care. In so far as these are shaped by society, the government has an obligation to protect our health.

Reality check: We see 22,000 people die each year due to lack of health insurance and access to health care, environmentally related diseases (like cancer) increase in the face of inadequate or the relaxation of regulations of toxins produced by industries, 3.4 million workplace injuries annually and inadequate nutrition in children (5%) resulting in stunted growth and development.

These failures to protect health are failures to meet a basic human right. Our current health care system is based on profit, which leads to the dystopian concept that health care is for only those who can afford it. In 1948, the United States voted in favor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights yet we persist in having this debate. The time has come for the United States to change the paradigm of health care finances to a publicly financed, nonprofit, single-payer national health program that would fully cover medical care for all Americans.

Dr. SUSAN ZLOTNICK-HALE

Concord

A black market

For over 700 million residents of First World countries, health care is a de facto right. In each of those countries, health care is provided differently. And on average that right is efficiently extended at an equivalent level of spending half ours. It would seem that along with the right to health care comes the responsibility to budget sensibly.

Other system outcomes consistently outrank ours due in part to superior resource allocation directed to solving upstream problems before they become health care problems. Because medical care is essentially a “your money or your life” proposition, i.e., inelastic demand, the potential for extortionary pricing is baked into the industry’s DNA: There are no substitutes for doctors, hospitals and medicines.

Absent effective regulation, consumers are never well-served in markets characterized by inelastic demand because incentives to price and allocate those resources optimally (from the perspective of the buyer/society) are also absent. This is the undeniable experience of the known world. There are no exceptions, and therefore, when compared with everywhere else, our system resembles a black market that every year shuts out tens of millions of citizens, bankrupts one half million more and results in maybe 40,000 needless deaths.

Given the choice, I would pray our polity would opt for de facto universal coverage provided with sensible levels of spending. Taiwan has demonstrated the benefits of a single-payer system done right. Unfortunately, irresistible, magnificent and unlimited money has shaped a morally wanting political system that has proved capable of exporting our jobs, depressing our wages and excluding the bottom 90% from the perquisites once regularly associated with life in this country.

And yes, at the top of the list and key to everything is health care.

MARK PATNAUDE

East Kingston

We’re already ‘rationing’

I recently heard an analysis of how many thousands of lives are being saved in states that have instituted expanded Medicaid. There is at least one model of a way that we could take care of everyone. Still, there are those who remain outside the system.

We already recognize health care as a human right, by requiring that a patient who shows up at the emergency room, even an “uncompensated care” patient, be treated. It’s just that they did not get the care they needed that might have prevented that ER visit, and will not get followed up. And, everyone else pays extra. And, rural hospitals are failing financially.

We limit access to health care only to those who can afford it, or are employed with health benefits (assuming they can afford the ever increasing co-pays and deductibles), or who are smart enough and patient enough to work through the morass of signing up for expanded Medicaid or the ACA, if they can afford even that. We are now practicing that dreaded “rationing” that people fear under universal health care, but we are doing it irrationally.

Which doctor, or oligarch, or gatekeeper gets to decide who does not get health care? Would we bring back the “death panels” debate? No one should not have access to health care.

FRED PORTNOY

Canterbury

In other words

That health care is self-evident as an inalienable right is affirmed by the following references and quotes.

The preamble to the most impactful and enduring political document in human history states: “We the People . . . provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty . . . establish this Constitution of the United States.”

Franklin D Roosevelt: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” (January 1937)

Harry Truman: “Millions do not have protection or security against economic effects of sickness. The time has arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and that protection.” (November 1947)

Martin Luther King Jr.: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” (March 1966)

Article 12 of the Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations (CESR) in 1976 asserts “the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health . . . through a comprehensive system of health care available to everyone without discrimination and economic access to all.”

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice: “To that end we seek a society where all have access to quality, affordable, equitable health care.”

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: Maimonides, a medieval Jewish scholar-physician of Cordoba, taught that “health care is a core element of creating a just society. We believe health care is a right and not a privilege.” (March 2017)

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA via their resolutions in 1988, 1991 and 2008 have held that health care services privately delivered and publicly funded are the only authentic Christian response.

Mary Gerisch, board member of the American Bar Association’s Section on Law and Social Justice: “As humans we must name and claim health care as right for ourselves and for future generations.”

A letter to Congress by 40 faith organizations: “The scriptures of the Abrahamic traditions of Christians, Jews and Muslims, as well as sacred teachings of other faiths, understand that addressing the general welfare of the nation includes giving particular attention to people experiencing poverty and sickness.” (March 2017)

Res ipsa loquitur. I rest my case.

Dr. AHMED KUTTY

Peterborough

A comparison of “rights”

Is health care a right? It should be.

In the United States, owning a gun is a right. Most Americans can live without a gun, but no one can live without their health.

On average, there are 643,000 bankruptcies annually due to an inability to pay medical bills in the United States. In Canada, France, Great Britain and other industrialized nations that number is zero.

There have been no bankruptcies in the United States due to gun ownership or non-ownership.

Dr. JAMES FIESEHER

Dover

An unprotected right

Yes, health care is a human right. In fact, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: “We all have the right to affordable housing, medicine, education and child care, enough money to live on and medical help if we are ill or old.” As a medical student, the right to health care is one of my core values, and one of the reasons I decided to become a physician.

However, our country currently does not protect this right. In my training, I am already witnessing the inequality with which our current system treats patients without health insurance, patients with substance use disorders, patients of color, patients who are undocumented and numerous other marginalized groups. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, I find it appalling that we do not guarantee people access to quality health care. We spend far more on health care per capita, yet our outcomes are significantly worse compared to other developed countries. This is not the system in which I want to practice as a physician, and this is not the system in which I want to be a patient.

If we guarantee health care as a human right, I believe that our medical system will be more efficient, our patients will be healthier and our society will be stronger.

CHELSEA SHANNON

Hanover

A guiding right

“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” are inalienable rights because we as a nation have defined them as such. In the same vein, health care is a basic human right if we as a country choose to make it so.

In my own internal debate, I ask myself, “Does health care play an important role in ensuring ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’?” Despite health care’s many flaws, every day I am presented with data showing that, yes, medical interventions help us to live more full, free and enjoyable lives. It is this evidence, and my belief in the essential humanity of medicine, that fuel my motivation to serve as a physician.

Regardless of how our elected officials think about health care, it more than clears my personal moral threshold to be considered a right, and I will treat it like one for the rest of my career.

RYAN POWERS

Hanover

Vote for change

Health care today is a privilege based on employment or wealth.

Health care is difficult to access and pay for if you don’t have these things.

Five hundred thousand bankruptcies each year due to heath care costs prove the point. No other country has approximately 10% of their population without health care coverage and a similar number underinsured.

Unfortunately, politicians have decided that $20 million insurance executives are more important than you. But, change is in the air.

Candidates have declared that health care is a human right and should be provided equally to you.

John Adams said that, “Government is instituted for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people.”

Comprehensive health care coverage for all provides these elements.

Since the private, for-profit health sector cannot do that, and the prices they charge decimate your prosperity, the time has come for New Hampshire citizens to declare that health care is a right for all by your words and your votes.

Dr. THOMAS CLAIRMONT

Portsmouth

The wise thing to do

It is immoral and unjust to withhold health care from those who need it. Furthermore, denying medical care to those unable to afford it makes no economic sense for our communities.

Healthy individuals and families are the bedrock of a nation. A healthy child is better able to learn in school and grow to be a contributing member of society. A healthy parent is better able to care for their children and participate in their community. A healthy adult is able to work, volunteer and serve the public good.

Failure to provide appropriate preventive health services and appropriately manage both chronic and acute health conditions leads to far more costly utilization of health services later on.

Providing health care to all is not only the right thing to do; it is the wise thing to do. The United States needs to catch up with the rest of the civilized world.

Dr. ANGELA SHEPARD

Hopkinton




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