Towards a Political Conception of the Right to Health

Kollar, Eszter (2014). 'Towards a Political Conception of the Right to Health' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

There are three main questions a conception of the right to health needs to answer in order to be action guiding in our contemporary world.  (1) What is the appropriate object of the right and how can it account for the social determinants of health? (2) What may count as a justified claim under the constraint of value pluralism? (3) How should we conceive of responsibility under (extreme) resource scarcity? First, the paper discusses Sridhar Venkatapuram's prominent contribution that grounds health entitlements in the capability approach, and argues that while it makes remarkable progress in the debate on question (1), its answers to question (2) and (3) are less convincing. Second, the paper puts forward an alternative account that combines Henry Shue's conceptual structure of basic rights as social guarantees against standard threats, and the political conception of human rights grounded in the international human rights practice. This novel view, building on Jonathan Wolff's recent account, conceives of the right to health as a reciprocally justifiable claim to social and global institutional guarantees against standard threats to health under the constraint of value pluralism and scarcity of resources. The paper argues that the political conception of the right to health can provide an ethically sound response to the challenge of value pluralism regarding the content of the right (2), and can account for resource scarcity when assigning responsibility to 'progressively realize' its institutional safeguards at the national and international level (3).

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