Healthcare and the Constitution

Sir, – I write to propose that the Taoiseach introduce a constitutional amendment to make healthcare a right for every citizen.

Many of us believe that we have such a right at the moment but this is not so – healthcare in Ireland is currently at the behest of the political, economic and legislative imperatives of the day. The long, bumpy journey of the Irish health system through the vagaries of conflicting and untested plans and the consequences for patients, healthcare providers, the economy and our national confidence are familiar to all.

The idea that every citizen should have a right to healthcare is uncomfortable for those charged with planning and funding the system – by definition, it would entitle a citizen who believes his or her rights have been curtailed to seek redress from the Department of Health through the courts.

That very entitlement is what is needed to convince politicians, civil servants and healthcare leaders to define the fundamentals of healthcare to which every citizen is entitled and to ensure the availability of those key services.


A right to healthcare should not confer an entitlement to arbitrary or open-ended services which cannot be predicted or safely funded; however, it would require that the State make provision for the evidence-based healthcare needs of all.

Recent history demonstrates the value and impact of constitutional amendments for our society. Nothing could be more important to the day-to-day lives of all than assured access to the fundamentals of healthcare.

Is our Taoiseach willing to accept the challenge and the opportunity to cement his place as a leader for our times? – Yours, etc,


Professor of

General Practice,

UCD School of Medicine,

Belfield, Dublin 4.