What Is Considered a Right?

March 9, 2011
John Lohnes, MD

I had the opportunity recently to speak before a group of college business students at our local state university. The topic was loosely centered around politics and medicine. In my opening, I first asked a question, “Who thinks healthcare is a right?” The hands all went up except for one or two of the students.

I had the opportunity recently to speak before a group of college business students at our local state university. This was an upper level course. The topic was loosely centered around politics and medicine. In my opening, I first asked a question, “Who thinks healthcare is a right?” The hands all went up except for one or two of the students.

That led to a variety of questions and answers. It also served as a subsequent entry point in an internal dialogue about the whole concept.

I would contend that a right is something of unlimited and priceless value. That is, you can’t pay for it. It exists; it is tangible, even as it is not. This country and its citizens have in the past and continue to offer up as payment the lives of our men and women in the military and our police, truly a priceless offering. At the same time, a dollar value cannot actually be placed upon the very concepts that they are defending.

Freedom of speech.

Freedom of religion.

Freedom of assembly.

These are concepts in our founding documents. And none of them can be found at your local store with a price tag attached to them. This is why the country’s founders described them as self-evident human rights. These are natural rights, by definition.

The other concept then is “legal rights.” These may, and will, carry a price. These are concepts that are established by societies to put into code those things that they believe are of great importance. Sometimes, a concept falls into the middle, such as a right to privacy. A legislative construct is developed to support the idea that the rights of an individual reserve to them a certain level of institutional and other personal disinterest and non-involvement.

Now we find ourselves neck deep in a discussion as to what our societal values require of us to support as legal rights. And, how to support it. These you can find in your Congessional SuperStore, and they come with a substantial price on that tag.

“The fight to repeal the patients’ rights in the healthcare reform law is behind us.” - Harry Reid 2/3/2011

John Lohnes, MD, FACR, is a radiologist at the Wichita Radiological Group and clinical assistant professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita. He serves on several local and state committees and is a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur.