Life or Death
- Nov 18th, 2011
When Sarah Palin incited fear about “death panels” a few years ago, it struck a nerve with me. Not because I was afraid of healthcare reform, but because what she was implying already exists within healthcare in America. “Death panels” are the principles at work behind who gets treatment and who does not – not for lack of medicines, doctors, nurses or hospitals – but simply because one cannot afford to pay.
It was about a year ago when a member of my church became ill and was told she needed a liver transplant. However, because she was considered homeless she wasn’t eligible to be a transplant recipient. Lisa was not an addict – her issue was poverty. When death was imminent, she went into an in-patient hospice facility where she received more mercy in preparing to die than she did in fighting to live. Even that care was confined to a particular period of time - they could only keep her for so long without insurance. Her homeless friends spoke about caring for her in an abandoned warehouse – they all wanted to stay by her side. Mercifully, she died in a comfortable bed at hospice. She was 42.
When I travel outside of the U.S., I expect to hear stories like this. Poverty dominates much of our world and medical assistance is lacking in general. My conscience won’t let me rest, especially in a country where so many are quick to proclaim that we are a Christian nation. Letting people die when help is available is an affront to all faith traditions.
While politicians speak about repealing healthcare reform, I ask, “What will your solution be?” Healthcare is a problem in America. Look around you. At first glance, you may be able to quickly name 5 people who struggle with getting medical help – whether it’s because they have a pre-existing illness, are self-employed, are disabled or simply work for a large corporation that only hires part-time to alleviate having to pay benefits.
Some developing countries have great wealth held only in the hands of the few. These same countries lack social justice for the poor – creating an environment that depends upon the compassion of those acting from the outside. These systems weren’t built overnight. A system that marginalizes large numbers of people creeps its way in little by little. The “creep” began in the U.S. decades ago – a groundwork of apathy and blame on those who suffer is allowing it to grow.
Today, a young woman I know needs medicine that is not covered by insurance. It’s a preventive medicine and since she can’t have it, she’ll have to wait until she gets sick. Then whatever surgeries are required will be covered. For a country that has traveled to the moon, is this really the best we can offer?
Learn more about a faithful budget ahttp://faithfulbudgettn.org/ http://www.nccendpoverty.org/take%20action/faithfulbudget.php.
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Read and comment on a range of personal reflections and perspectives about poverty and Ministry with the Poor. Our goal is to attract diverse voices and points of view from United Methodists and friends, including people and communities living in conditions of poverty, other experts, religious leaders, community organizers, advocates, policy makers, volunteers, and all engaged in Ministry with the Poor.
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