Public health care in Europe: moral aspirations, ideological obsessions, and structural pitfalls in a post-enlightenment culture.

Research paper by Guoda G Azguridienė, Corinna C Delkeskamp-Hayes

Indexed on: 14 Feb '15Published on: 14 Feb '15Published in: The Journal of medicine and philosophy


This essay focuses on the challenge European states have imposed on themselves, namely, to provide state-of-the-art health care equally to all and for less than market price. Continued endorsement of that challenge in these states hinges on their character as media democracies: the public is moved by a supposed morally warranted expectation that all should receive adequate health care at no significant personal cost. The structural and economic constraints that hamper such forms of healthcare delivery result in systems that are financially inefficient and fail to provide the quality of treatment patients are led to expect. This essay examines the tension between secular moral claims to social solidarity and the actual limits of accessibility to healthcare services. Its critical focus addresses both the difficulties that result from politicians invoking high moral ideals while framing their decisions around short-term political advantage, and the transformation of the Enlightenment's secular aspirations into a political ideology that distorts such moral ideals. This essay concludes that the commitments to very particular notions of equality and human dignity, which frame contemporary Europe's provision of publicly subsidized health care, have given rise to a governance that is morally incoherent and unsustainable. This failure of public health care in Europe can thus be read as one more belated manifestation of the epistemological and moral failure of the Enlightenment's secularizing project, a failure which should invite contemporary Europeans to honestly face the moral challenge of postmodernity.