Can a right to health care be justified by linkage arguments?

James Nickel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Linkage arguments, which defend a controversial right by showing that it is indispensable or highly useful to an uncontroversial right, are sometimes used to defend the right to health care (RHC). This article evaluates such arguments when used to defend RHC. Three common errors in using linkage arguments are (1) neglecting levels of implementation, (2) expanding the scope of the supported right beyond its uncontroversial domain, and (3) giving too much credit to the supporting right for outcomes in its area. A familiar linkage argument for RHC focuses on its contributions to the right to life. Among the problems with this argument are that it requires a positive conception of the right to life that is not uncontroversial and that it only justifies the subset of RHC that seeks to prevent loss of life. A linkage argument for RHC with better prospects claims that a well-realized right to health care enhances the realization of a number of uncontroversial rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-306
Number of pages14
JournalTheoretical Medicine and Bioethics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Justification of rights
  • Linkage arguments
  • Realization
  • Right to health care
  • Support relations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Medicine(all)


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