The Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlines the right to health care in Article 25, stating, “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.” Yet, we have come to look at health care via its cost effectiveness. Farmer addresses the perpetuation of health disparities as many people are denied basic care, under the pretext that prevention is more important than treatment. Physicians have resorted to rationing effective therapies, making assumptions about a patient’s willingness to comply, and further widening the gap between the rich and poor. Why is it that many people are denied such a pivotal human right, while companies in the health care system continue to flourish?
I know somebody who stopped working for a pharmaceutical company because he felt it was unethical. The goal was not always to discover valuable drugs that could cure diseases, but to continue to receive funding from the government. The pursuit of profit had superseded the value to protect human lives. I can’t imagine the trauma that patients must endure when they are denied basic health care, knowing that there is a cure that they are unable to afford. It is one thing to endure the gradual death of a loved one after attempting various treatments to find a solution…but do be denied a highly effective treatment must be devastating. The video below is a recording of Paul Farmer’s “This I Believe,” which was played on NPR. His words ring so true, as he speaks of witnessing “a child writhing in the spasms of a terrible disease for which a vaccine has existed for more than a century,” and failure, “because we are too often at the mercy of those with the power and money who decide the fates of hundreds of millions.” The injustice in this is frustrating. We have the power to cure diseases and free people from poverty; yet, we are often prevented from doing so because of those who hold power.
Farmer, Paul. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. Berkeley: University of California, 2003. Print.
UN General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948, 217 A (III), available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3ae6b3712c.html