People survive at different rates. Just look at the world’s different life expediencies: 90 and 85 for Monaco and Japan, respectively, compared to just 50 in Chad. That’s 35 years or more of difference — a full young-person-in-their-prime’s worth of lost years.
But within a country — within a developed nation like our own — we still also see differential rates of survival. People of color with cancer die at higher rates than their white counterparts. I’m not just saying that people of color get and therefore die of cancer more often; I am saying a greater proportion of those who already have cancer die of it. Simply put, if you get cancer, you have a higher likelihood of surviving if you are white.
Just as importantly, people thrive at different rates. A disproportionate part of the disease burden is carried by those with low socioeconomic status.
Healthcare may not be a right granted to us by the Constitution. But no right ever granted to us was a right until we declared it to be. The right to bear arms did not fall from the sky, and neither did my right to freely blog and speak about my beliefs. Somebody else thought these privileges were privileges worth protecting; only then did they become a right and not a luxury. So when we say that healthcare is not a right, we aren’t stating a simple legal fact — we are saying that healthcare shouldn’t be a right and that it should remain the luxury of the privileged few. When we say healthcare is not a right, what we are really saying is that we’re not willing to grant that right to others.
As a premedical student, I have declared healthcare a human right. My experiences have taught me that a child born to poor parents deserves the right to survive and the right to thrive as much as a child born to privileged parents. I plan to serve communities (like my own) who do not have access to the healthcare they deserve.
But the truth is, that isn’t enough. Thousands of people like myself have declared healthcare a human right and work everyday to provide healthcare to those without access. And, for all their work, we as Americans still experience differential rates of survival.
So we must work tirelessly until the right to survive and the right to thrive are not just human rights, but legal rights. And right now, we’re taking steps in the wrong direction.
Please keep fighting.