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The result of Affordable Health Care, and what it means to “play God”

I just finished reading some distressing accounts of families who have been presented with “end of life counseling” for their loved ones within our current system.  Much of this discussion was related to lack of adequate emergency care which exacerbated the presenting health issues. Consequently the patient’s prognosis seemed to be “poor quality of life” and the medical personnel recommended a “Do Not Resuscitate” order.

In other cases, Medicare limits dictated the available treatment levels, even when the patient had other private insurance because Medicare trumped all other insurance programs.  Appropriate treatment was withheld or discouraged and families were encouraged not to continue feeding the patient.  The rationale was often that the person seeking medical assistance “already had a full life”, (even when he was only in his sixties) or “he wouldn’t want to live with the debilitating effects of the illness.” 

Imagine that!  The medical personnel act as if they know the future, they know what is best for families, and they are able to determine when a person has already had his best and most productive years, so he should be able to quietly fade away.  The counsel for withholding of treatment or food is probably given with a voice of compassion with the connotation that “everything will be better for the patient and family” if the decision is made to not try to prolong life.

Hmmm.  That sounds suspiciously like a god-role. 


Someone asked me the other day if I thought she would do something great in her life to make up for the previous hard things and poor decisions.  I told her that there is a greatness in all of us if we are living out of who God purposed us to be, embracing the fullness of who we are. 

My friend, Annie, understands this very well.  She has lived in a Colorado town of 65,000 for a few years.  I was visiting her a couple of weeks ago, and was amazed that she knew people almost everywhere we went, and counts many people as her good friends–from 4 year olds to 89 year olds.  She remembers and honors birthdays and special events in others’ lives, and very generously treats her buddies to ice cream or a movie.  She takes a bus to visit an elderly friend who broke her hip and “seems lonely”.  A great sense of humor and a beautiful easy-going spirit complement Annie’s simple lifestyle and her appeal to the young at heart of all ages.  When she visits Phoenix, she sets up a social schedule that leaves my head spinning, so she can spend time with all her dear ones here.

In my mind, Annie is a living testimony to “greatness”.  She will never accomplish anything that the world considers great or history-making such as writing a book or inventing a cure for an illness or performing in a reality TV show or creating something ingenious.  You see, she was born mentally challenged, and probably has a 5th grade reading level.  She lives with her older sister’s family and needs help managing her money and doctor’s appointments and broader daily living arrangements. 

Even though there is much that she cannot do, this young woman lives life more fully than many of us.  She values people and can make others feel comfortable and accepted in a way most of us miss.  Her life is extremely simple, but very rich and meaningful because she understands that there is a God who loves her and He has given her an abundance of people who love her and need her acts of love.


I remember the Values Clarification exercises which were so popular in the 70’s.  The story had different variations, but went something like this:

Eight people are in a lifeboat in the ocean.  There is only enough food and supplies for seven people.  Your group needs to decide which person needs to die so the rest can live.  The people are: a husband and wife in their 20’s–he’s an engineer and she is an author, an 86 year old sea captain, a child of 8 whose parents drowned, an unmarried pregnant 17 year old, a 39 year old business executive who got arrested last month for DUI, a 57 year old preacher, and a 32 year old woman with some  mental disabilities.

Typically in these exercises, the group has trouble finding a conclusion to the assignment, but the conversation often is about whose life is worthy to be saved and whose life is worth-less due to age or circumstances.


In our health care debates, if the goal is cutting costs, there are really only two ways to achieve that:  reducing the amount paid for services and workers, or reducing the number of people who can recieve care.  Either way, the quality and amount of the remaining care are going to be diminished. 

If less is paid for the same quality and quantity of services, and the workers receive less, the result will perhaps be a revolution–quiet or otherwise.  Americans have become accustomed to receiving a certain monetary value for their goods and services, and having the government decrease that will probably anger many.  Some will walk away from their professions or close their shops in frustration and protest, leaving fewer businesses and workers to handle the load.  This could result in a shortage of qualified professionals and resources to handle the needs, leading to fewer who receive services.  Most doctors won’t willingly take more patients if they get no further return for the new ones.  Someone will have to set up standards for who gets care and what care they will get.

On the other hand, if wages and service fees remain constant, but there is a cap on the total amount that can be spent, decisions will have to be made again about how those dollars are distributed.  What will determine who is “worthy” to have life-saving or life-sustaining or life-enriching services?  Who will be asked to make those choices?  How will families members of those denied be coerced into “aiding and abetting” in the death of their loved ones?


Either scenario leaves us back in the lifeboat, doesn’t it?  In the quest for all people being able to have (and mandated to have) affordable health insurance, we will be making the resources for delivering the health care scarcer and more difficult to obtain, and we will be compromising the many who will not have access.  Are the ones currently without insurance likely to be the ones who will be unequivocally denied health care later on, since they are more likely to be the less educated, or those with current health issues, or those who are somehow “less worthy or less desirable”? 

How on earth will a government-run health care system which needs 53 new agencies to administer (and that is cutting costs?????) be able to provide an equitable system for all of us who do not have the benefit of the Congressional health services?

(Point of question:  What kind of insurance and health care will all those thousands of people in the 53 agencies be able to access?  The same as the Congress?  Will the taxpayers be levied more taxes to pay for the upgraded care that the bureaucrats will receive?  I wonder.)

For some insight on how England is faring with their socialized medicine, watch this speech excerpt with Daniel Hannan of the European Parliament:  http://regularfolksunited.com/index.php?tab=article_view&article_id=2154.  The full speech is here http://www.youtube.com/regularfolksunited.

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