What Ethical Responsibility Does the United States Have to Provide Healthcare to Illegal Immigrants?

What Ethical Responsibility Does the United States Have to Provide Healthcare to Illegal Immigrants?

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The subject of illegal immigration coupled with the concern of the growing number of illegal immigrants in the United States has been a long standing national debate. A single finite definition of the term “illegal immigrant” has proven difficult to specify. For the purposes of this paper, I will use the term “undocumented immigrant” defined as an individual who has “entered the United States illegally or violated the terms of their residency status” (Chan, Scott, Krishel, Bramwell, and Clark, 2006).

Over the years there has been a growing debate as to whether or not the United States should provide health care services to undocumented immigrants. Those siding against providing health care services for undocumented immigrants deem that those individuals which reside in the United Stated illegally have no right to be in the country; therefore they should not have a rightful claim to health care benefits. Those on the opposing side arguing for the proposition of providing healthcare services to these undocumented individuals consider that access to health care is a basic human right; therefore the United States cannot ethically deny undocumented immigrants health care services. The question at large is what ethical responsibility does the United States have to provide health care to undocumented immigrants, if any?

Case Study
Human Migration is not uncommon and dates back to the beginning of human existence. Over the years, individuals have migrated for various reasons, most linked to economic, political and natural factors. A number of individuals will depart, or emigrate, from their initial location to another location that promises opportunity or improved economic or social prospects for themselves or...


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Mohanty, S. A., Wollhandler, S., Himmelstein, D. U., Pati, S., Carrasquillo, O., & Bor, D. H. (2005). Health care expenditures of immigrants in the United States: A nationally representative analysis. In American Journal of Public Health, 95(8), 1431-1438.

Okie, S. (2007). Immigrants and health care: at the intersection of two broken systems. In The New England Journal of Medicine, 357(6), 525-529. Retrieved from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp078113

Rhodes, J. (2005, August). Mentoring immigrant youth. In Mentor: National Mentoring Partnership. Retrieved March 2, 2012, from http://www.mentoring.org/downloads/mentoring_1318.pdf

Wolf, R. (2008, January 22). Rising health care sosts put focus on illegal immigrants. In USA Today. Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-01-21-immigrant-healthcare_N.htm

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