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Pope Francis: health care is a ‘universal right,’ not a ‘consumer good’

May 09, 2016

Speaking to 9,000 people associated with the medical missionary organization Doctors with Africa, Pope Francis said that “health is not a consumer good, but rather a universal right, and therefore access to health care services cannot be a privilege.”

“Health care, especially at the most basic level, is indeed denied in many parts of the world and many regions of Africa,” the Pope said on May 7 in Paul VI Audience Hall. “Access to health care services, treatment and medicines remains a mirage. The poorest are unable to pay and are excluded from hospital services, even the most essential primary care.”

The Pope praised the organization’s work with pregnant mothers and newborn babies and referred to “"the geographical peripheries in which the Lord sends you to be good Samaritans, to reach out to the poor Lazarus, through the door that leads from the first to the third world.”


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  • Posted by: filioque - May. 10, 2016 5:16 PM ET USA

    @unum: never mind what the pope said. The "right to health care" has been the mantra of the US Bishops for almost 100 years.

  • Posted by: loumiamo - May. 10, 2016 10:06 AM ET USA

    John3822, thanks for reminding us about Article 25 of the United Socialist Charter on Human Rights. Thot I'd remind u of Article 29 of said charter, which slips in the idea that 1 of our rights is a duty to support our community. Good thing we've got someone who can compel us to comply with our right to do our duty. I'm not sure what that is, but I sleep better at night knowing my community will guide me toward proper compliance. Least we got that goin for us, which is nice.

  • Posted by: unum - May. 10, 2016 9:22 AM ET USA

    Pope Francis was speaking to 9,000 dedicated health care professionals from one of the poorest areas of the world. He was affirming both the care they provide and especially their teaching of uneducated people to care for their own. He was not speaking to Congress or the United Nations, thus his remarks were addressed to a specific audience. That said, I believe that some of the comments about his address were unduly critical.

  • Posted by: jrorr19609092 - May. 10, 2016 1:52 AM ET USA

    Health care is NOT a RIGHT, It's a responsibility. St Paul said if you don't work you don't eat. Same goes for health care. Oh, where did Jesus teach his disciples to go get government to take care of the poor?

  • Posted by: John3822 - May. 09, 2016 8:12 PM ET USA

    It's amazing to me that 68 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was ratified by the United Nations with no country voting against and the United States supporting it, we are having a discussion on whether or not it is a human right not withstanding that article 25 was clear on the subject. We all take for granted that everyone has a right to security - no one quibbles whether looking the other way and not giving citizens such a benefit is charity or justice - yet here we are...

  • Posted by: jimr451 - May. 09, 2016 4:33 PM ET USA

    I always thought the good Samaritan acted out of "love" (for neighbor) and not out of obligation. If health care is a "universal right," wouldn't it follow that providing that care is not an act of charity, but of justice? Or am I mixing things up?

  • Posted by: filioque - May. 09, 2016 4:16 PM ET USA

    So how much health care are we obliged to provide? At what price? For free? I have a right to travel freely in the United States. Are you obliged to buy me a plane ticket anywhere I want to go? What kind of right are we talking about. This is incoherent twaddle.

  • Posted by: loumiamo - May. 09, 2016 1:55 PM ET USA

    The more middlemen involved in distributing a product, the more expensive it becomes. But praise Jesus this is not true when it comes to health care. And thank God that govt bureaucrats, the ONLY people who can transform a product into a right, never confiscate more than a penny or 2 from every dollar to cover their administrative costs when they helpfully direct the smooth flow of services between patients and providers. Why, without govt bureaucrats, we'd be in a heap a trouble fer sure!

  • Posted by: nix898049 - May. 09, 2016 10:53 AM ET USA

    Spoken with all the well-intentioned clarity of Yogi Berra.