The Choice we Make

A pregnant woman chooses to give birth in her own home rather than in the hospital. Another woman has to stumble down a mile of a rocky hillside to get medical attention. Another woman has to borrow money from her neighbors, putting her family in debt, all to pay for the care of a doctor. This is happening in China. It is happening in many other nations as well. Women, children, and the poorer class in general are being ignored as their respective societies move forward in the name of progress.

This is all detailed in the New York Times article “As China Trims Health Care, The Rural Poor Suffer.” China’s market-oriented development has deprived the rural population of the popular “barefoot doctors” and free clinics that once were found throughout China’s countryside. The centralization of many of China’s social systems, including health care, has left those in the rural areas out in the cold. There are those that argue that this economically-motivated development vio!

lates the basic rights of these individuals who suffer because of it. The capabilities approach, developed in part by Amartya Sen, can be used to show how such a method of development deprives these people of their ability to achieve the quality of life that every person should.

The capabilities approach was designed to provide “an account of basic constitutional principles that should be respected and implemented by the governments of all nations, as a bare minimum of what respect for human dignity requires.” This approach is designed with the interests of each individual in mind, rather than overlooking the less fortunate while concentrating on the goal of the society as a whole. By capability, we mean what a person is able to do or to be. Among all of the capabilities of human beings are central capabilities that are universal. Each one of us can be expected to live up to these.