Everyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of healthiness.
Most governments have recognized the people's rights to life and liberty. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and...". The United States Declaration of Independence says "All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that amount these are life, liberty and...";
These rights are fundamental; they are not conditional nor linked to any responsibilities. There are some alternatives for the word after 'and'. Now is the time to correct this situation.
Everyone has a right pursue their own healthiness. To heal when you are sick, to rest when you are tired. To make decisions and take actions that affect your personal healthiness. Everyone has a right to medical assistance and treatment, to choose their doctor and their treatments - or not. Health freedom does not necessarily mean 'free treatment'. We need efficient and effective systems to administer payments for health and medical treatments - to decide which treatments will be paid for by the community - and which are paid for by the person. These systems need to be flexible to change as our knowledge of medicine and health changes. Payment systems are not about health freedom.
Is there difference between a right to pursue healthiness and a right to medicine? We might think of health as a 'yes or no'. Either you are healthy, or you are sick. Not! Healthiness is a scale, hundreds or perhaps thousands of scales actually, ranging from almost dead to very, very healthy.
Healthiness is varied and complex. The Hierarchy of Healthiness is an effective structure for the study of health, clearly articulating the primary and secondary disciplines of healthiness, and facilitating a scientific exploration of healthicine.
Healthiness begins with genetics, is activated by nutrition, and enabled through the growth of our cells. Cells combine into tissues, tissues combine to create organs. Organs, tissues and cells cooperate to create our respiratory, circulatory, and other systems. Our bodies consist of each of these components. Our health depends on every one. Our minds raise our healthiness to a new level - and our spirits rise above the body and mind. Finally, communities of people - we are not alone, complete the hierarchy of healthiness.
Each layer in the hierarchy of healthiness: genetics, nutrition, cells, tissues, organs, systems, bodies, minds, spirits and communities is dependent on the prior layer for its existence, stability and health. Each layer can affect any other layer in the hierarchy, in a positive and a negative fashion. Each layer in the hierarchy of healthiness is composed of many individual components, that work together and affect our overall healthiness. Most of our health components are below 'optimal', but overall, we are healthy. When some, or many of the health components are well below optimal health - we are unhealthy. At some point, unhealthiness crosses a diagnostic threshold - and we have an 'illness'. It is important to understand that you can have an illness - and be healthy, at the same time. Your cellular healthiness does not disappear just because you have a broken leg. Your genetic healthiness doesn't change when you have a cold. Your spirit healthiness may be strong, when your flesh is weak. Healthiness is a scale, a set of many scales, not an on-off switch.
Once we understand the concept of healthiness - separate from the concept of illness - we can reach for health freedom.
Health freedom is the right of people to pursue their personal healthiness. Why does this need to be a right of all persons? There are many reasons.
Most, possibly all, actions that affect your healthiness positively also affect it negatively. These are not 'side effects', they are simply changes in health balances. We need to exercise to stay healthy. Exercise depletes our calorie store, our essential nutrients, and our water stores. Health requires balance. Sometimes, optimizing health requires shifting the balance one way - and then helping it return.
When we are sick, every action we take to recover has positive and negative effects our healthiness. Everyone has the right to choose their healthy actions - and their sickness actions. We all need to seek medical advice at times - but we also need the right to make our own decisions.
Science and medicine work hard to prevent, diagnose and treat illness. But, there are still many disagreements with regards to which actions are correct, which actions are most effective. Science is about challenging prior assumptions. I hope we always continue to have healthy disagreements. Personal choices are required. Trust your doctor, but if you are able, investigate for yourself and make your own decisions. That's your health freedom, your right to pursue healthiness.
Your health freedom, your right to pursue healthiness goes beyond illness and medicines.
Science and medicine do not study healthiness. There is no standard technique to measure healthiness. Someday, I hope and expect we will have several competing ways to measure healthiness. And we may learn to compare them and rate different techniques to refine our understanding of healthiness and health measurement. But today, we have no recognized tool or technique to measure your healthiness, nor to measure the healthiness of any single layer in the hierarchy of healthiness, nor any organ, system or community. Note: There are some techniques to measure healthiness of communities - but in fact they only measure illness and attempt to extrapolate overall healthiness of individuals from 'absence of illness'. When we look at the details in the hierarchy of healthiness, we can start to realize how difficult it will be to develop scientific measurements of healthiness.
We have a lot to learn about healthiness. There are many things we do not know. What we do know is always open to scientific study and challenges. When we know much more about health and healthiness, we will still need to consider this famous quote:
"We have not succeeded in answering all our problems. The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a higher level and about more important things."
and we will still need the right of everyone to pursue healthiness on their own.
This post is based on a post on the site PersonalHealthFreedom.com written in November 2010. Many other people and groups have contributed to the goals of health freedom, and some of them have created declarations of Health Freedom or Medical Freedom. I want to acknowledge and respect the work of these people and their contribution to the fields of health freedom.
International Declaration of Health Freedom from World Health Freedom Assembly 2006. A more in depth declaration of health freedom. Contains information that is useful for contacting other Health Freedom organizations around the world.
2004 - NHFC Declaration of Health Freedom A national view from the United States of America.
Amend the Constitution to grant Americans Medical Freedom - a petition to amend the constitution of the United States to ensure: "freedom of choice regarding what happens to our body, medically and nutritionally."
Charter of Health Freedom A Canadian Health Freedom document.
to your health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: