Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The venerable Daniel Callahan, on Catholics and health care reform ...

... in this week's Commonweal:

America’s Blind Spot

Health Care & the Common Good

Daniel Callahan

The concept of the common good, ancient in origin, would seem on the face of it an ideal foundation for health-care reform. We all get sick and depend on others to care for us, and many of us will need expensive treatments that are beyond the means of all but the most affluent. At the core of the idea of a common good is the Aristotelian understanding of man as a social being—as well as the understanding that, in the words of Pope John XXIII’s Mater et magistra, “individual human beings are the foundation, the cause, and the end of every social institution.”

Except for Catholics and a few others, however, the common good as a moral value has little purchase in American culture and politics. The closest some come is to speak of the “public interest,” but that notion seems more political than moral, useful perhaps but not quite the same. European health-care systems are based on the idea of solidarity, which is closely related to the common good, but the term “solidarity” has even less resonance here than the term “common good” does. For Europeans, it is a matter of solidarity that everyone have access to health care because it is a necessity for human welfare; and government, they believe, is the appropriate institution to guarantee this access. For Europeans, the 46 million uninsured Americans, together with the excessively high cost of care for those Americans who have insurance, is a source of astonishment. How can an affluent, civilized country tolerate treating millions of its citizens this way? Since every other developed nation provides universal care, it is worth exploring why we are different and whether anything can be done about it

[Read the rest, here.]


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