The NHS, Obama and Kenya

Are you enjoying the US debate about whether a universal healthcare system guaranteeing basic cover for everyone is a good thing or socialism gone mad?

Some of us whinge about the NHS from time to time but it’s glorious to watch British politicians from across the spectrum get sucked into defending our national treasure, whether by telling yet another rogue MEP to pipe down or by tweeting.

The battle for universal healthcare started long ago in the US – Michael Moore made his film Sicko in 2007 in good time before the election and in order to stoke up healthcare as an election issue. It also featured lots of cases and interviews from the NHS (and is well worth a viewing not least for the portrayal of a super-bling East London GP explaining that he’s not reduced to poverty by being “forced to work in a socialist system”, and a confused American wondering around a British hospital looking for the paypoint).

But when we do have serious debate here in the UK about how healthcare is to be modernised and sustainably funded it’s good to have a ringside seat for the US debate which is really getting back to basics about individual’s entitlement to a basic standard of healthcare and the state’s responsibilities. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - made in 1948 and based on a lot of the same thinking that saw the NHS come into being at about the same time – sets out that everyone is entitled to a basic standard of healthcare.

The same article goes on to say that “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance”. Today’s piece in the Guardian about pregnant women and new mothers being detained in hospital in Kenya because they cannot pay their bills makes for very sobering reading among this heated debate on health. This is the consequence of a failure to ensure a basic standard of health for all. Maybe some US pundits should look at this example from their President’s ancestral home alongside the NHS.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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