Thursday, February 16, 2006

Rights to Treatment

I haven't really followed the case of Ms Rogers in enough detail, but it seems a recent ruling has denied her the right to an expensive drug treatment for breast cancer on the NHS. (See here).

As I understand it, she claimed her 'right to life' was being violated. I'm somewhat sceptical of human rights, and the over inflation of any rights beyond fairly minimal levels. Nonetheless, I'll put this aside as best as I can. However, it seems to me either:

1) We all have rights to extensive medical treatment. In this case Ms Rogers does indeed have the right to the drug BUT it clashes with the rights of many other people who could be treated with the money. Therefore she has a right, but it's insufficient to determine that she should actually get the drug.


2) A right is something stronger, so a right to X entails that one should be provided with X. But in this case the task for Ms Rogers is to demonstrate she does indeed have a right to this drug - and I don't find it particularly convincing to suppose she has a right to such expensive treatment at loss to many others.

Anyway, the judge declared it was not his position to say whether it would be better or not to provide the treatment - his role is simply to observe that the law is not arbitrary or irrational, and therefore does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

In passing, he likened regional autonomy to a 'postcode lottery'. Such criticisms are often made, and I think I'll have to address them at another point, since they give lotteries a bad name. The 'postcode lottery' isn't a lottery (unless postcodes were to be re-assigned to everyone randomly) - it doesn't give people equal chances, it merely discriminates on the basis of an arbitrary feature. One could therefore liken the 'postcode lottery' not to a fair lottery (e.g. the military draft), but rather to racism...

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