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This paper offers four arguments against a moral human right to health, two denying that the right exists and two denying that it would be very useful (even if it did exist). One of my sceptical arguments is familiar, while the other is not.

The unfamiliar argument is an argument from the nature of health. Given a realistic view of health production, a dilemma arises for the human right to health. Either a state's moral duty to preserve the health of its citizens is not justifiably aligned in relation to the causes of health or it does not correlate with the human right to health. It follows that no one holds a justified moral human right to health against the state.

Education and herd immunity against infectious disease both illustrate this dilemma. In the former case, the state's moral duty correlates with the human right to health only if it demands too much from a cause of health; and in the latter, only if it demands nothing from a cause of health (that is, too little).
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Duke University, 201 West Duke Building, Box 90743 Durham, NC 27708, USA,

Publication date: 2012-06-01

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