What is wrong with the emergency justification of compulsory medical service?

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Abstract

Michael Blake holds that liberal states are precluded from introducing compulsory medical service to improve access to health care under conditions of critical health worker shortage. “Emergency circumstances” are the only exception when the suspension of liberty may be justified. I argue that there are three problems with Blake's emergency justification of compulsory service. First, his concept of emergency is vague. Second, his account does not really rely on emergency as much as liberty. Third, his conception of permissible restrictions of liberty is too narrow. I argue that liberties may be limited to some degree, temporarily, for the sake of attaining the capacities necessary for the exercise of liberties and for safeguarding the social conditions of the right to health. I conclude that in poor societies, temporarily delaying emigration through a highly qualified compulsory medical service can sometimes be justified.

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