I'm leaving the old question text below, because it's not fair to change it after others have commented. But I'd like to ask a simplified question since it seems the original was misunderstood. I want to know the objectivist stance on obligation of medical professionals to treat in emergency circumstances.
The simplified question: There are circumstances where in current American society people expect a hospital to treat (for example, unconscious victims with life-threatening injuries and no insurance card in his/her pocket) regardless of ability to demonstrate payment intention (may or may not be able to pay, won't know until the victim wakes up or family shows up). My question is, is there ANY such circumstance that an Objectivist would consider significant enough for the government to force treatment. Or is it the Objectivist position that a government has no right to obligate a medical facility to provide emergency triage services.
OLD QUESTION: I have read the other posts on here about Healthcare (such as http://objectivistanswers.com/questions/709/if-healthcare-is-not-a-right-and-you-were-a-homeless-guy-with-appendicitis-what-would-you-do), and the objectivist view around all of these answers seems to be summed up with "there is no right to healthcare, it is a privilege you can pay for." I believe there are some scenarios that the prior answers do not address and I would like to understand the objectivist stance around healthcare.
As a hospital operating under these circumstances, there is little incentive to treat unconscious patients brought to me in an emergency basis, particularly ones that may appear poor and unable to pay. Is it the objectivist stance that hospitals allowed an insured unconscious patient die because they guessed (possibly incorrectly) that he/she was not insured or able to pay cash for his bill?
All of the answers around other healthcare questions assume personal capacity and responsibility to pay for your own healthcare. What about infants, children and mentally handicapped individuals that are typically not recognized as being capable of being responsible for themselves? Is the objectivist stance that an infant's access to medical care, basic immunizations, etc are determined by the financial status and success of their parents / caretakers?
Finally, some medical conditions are a cause of the violation of a person's rights, and there is precedent for a communal approach to addressing justice of those issues. As I understand it, basic police protection and civil restitution via the courts for a violation of rights are acceptable policy to objectivists. If a person breaks into my home, the police will attempt to stop that person from violating my rights, or pursue them after the fact to administrate justice. I would also have the right to seek restitution in the courts, so if the person stole $500 from me, I could bring a lawsuit against them for $500. This system seems ill-equipped to address violent crime. If someone poisons or shoots me, I may need immediate medical care that I am not sufficiently prepared to pay for. And the traditional means of restitution via the courts is not speedy enough to provide payment for my medical needs. Is it the objectivist stance that a victim of violent crime may be denied treatment and allowed to die because they did not for-see and financially plan for the assault?
I'd like to be clear that I am not attempting to argue or debate the morals or values of the objectivist stance. I am not attempting to change or critique the stance. I am just trying to clarify and understand the objectivist viewpoint. As I understand it the objectivist viewpoint is that healthcare is not a right. If that is the case, then it is acceptable objectivist policy that in the above scenarios an unconscious car wreck victim, a baby with poor parents and a treatable disease, and a gunshot victim without money to pay a surgeon have no right to healthcare and will either receive charity or die. And that the government should defend a health institution / doctor's right to deny those medical services without payment at the barrel of a gun. Is that a correct understanding of the viewpoint?
"My question is, is there ANY such circumstance that an Objectivist would consider significant enough for the government to force treatment. Or is it the Objectivist position that a government has no right to obligate a medical facility to provide emergency triage services."
My answer is that it is not either-or. It IS the Objectivist position that the government has no right to obligate a medical facility to provide emergency triage services, BUT, in, say, a time of war, where winning that war requires medical treatment of a militarily important person, the government might rightfully compel treatment from a civilian doctor.
Rights apply in a context, generally relatively normal life. Doctors are not slaves to the emergencies of others. The normal life of an ER doctor involves dealing with patients who sometimes desperately need help. But their need is not a claim on his effort. Under normal circumstances (for an ER doctor), he has, according to Objectivism, the moral right not to treat.
I'll emphasize, here: it doesn't matter whether the patient appears to be able to pay. What matters here is simply whether the doctor wishes to treat the patient. The doctor has a right to be a totally abhorrent physician and to destroy his own reputation by doing so.
That said, it's possible to imagine an unusual context where it's moral to compel the doctor. Yes, such is abhorrent to what I'd call Objectivist sensibilities, but in such case we're talking about the ethics of a war. A war is something beyond the mere fact that some individual requires medical attention for the sake of his own survival. The autonomy of the doctor cannot rightfully be sacrificed for the life of a patient, unless perhaps, the patient is of great military significance.
In times of war, there is collateral damage -- in this case, the damage would be to the doctor.
The important fact here is that the notion of rights must be understood by reference to normal conditions. The principle is that is is wrong for the government to compel a person to do work.
Once that principle is firmly grasped, then special circumstances might be considered, such as wars.
But the fundamentals of ethics and politics must not be derived from reference to emergencies or wars.
Ayn Rand wrote a great essay about this called "The Ethics of Emergencies."
There are no circumstances in which healthcare is a right (unless self-provided). Healthcare service, provided by person's with the knowledge and capability to provide it, is only justifiably accessed by mutual agreement. Using force to compel knowledgable, skilled people to provide the service, when they are unwilling to do so, is completely contrary to Objectivist principles, in any context. There is no circumstance in which Objectivsts would force another person to do something. Fortunately, healthcare professionals actually want to provide care to people - in exchange for the benefits they desire and aquire from it. That is why they entered the profession. It would nearly be irrational for them to refuse to treat someone. But if they did refuse, no Objectivist principle would justify forcing them to provide it.