It's Really Quite Simple: Do We Value Each Life in America?

The
question is straightforward and simple. Do we value each life? Yes
or no.

No matter
what Congress passes or doesn't pass, no matter what the President
signs, no
matter who buys insurance or has a subsidy to buy it, no matter which
person is
on Medicaid or Medicare or in the VA system or the Indian Health Service
system, we need to answer that question for ourselves and future
generations.

The
question is straightforward and simple. Do we value each life? Yes
or no.

No matter
what Congress passes or doesn't pass, no matter what the President
signs, no
matter who buys insurance or has a subsidy to buy it, no matter which
person is
on Medicaid or Medicare or in the VA system or the Indian Health Service
system, we need to answer that question for ourselves and future
generations.

Do we
value each life? If not, then what are the criteria by which we make
our
determinations? Clean and clear. How do we decide? Is there
some sort of unspoken master race or master class we value more highly?
By
birth? By religious affiliation? By social strata?

De we
value each life? If our answer is no, then we will keep reading reports
like
the one in the New York Times yesterday about Carol Y. Vliet in Flint,
MI. We do not value her life. The brutality of what we are doing to
one another is mind-numbing.

"FLINT, Mich. -
Carol Y. Vliet's cancer
returned with a fury last summer,
the tumors
metastasizing to her brain, liver,
kidneys and throat. ..

Dr. Sahouri
informed her a few
months later that he could no longer see her because, like a growing
number of
doctors, he had stopped taking patients with Medicaid. .. 'My office manager
was telling me to do
this for a long time, and I resisted,' Dr. Sahouri said.
'But after a
while you realize that we're really losing money on seeing those
patients, not
even breaking even. We were starting
to lose more and
more money, month
after month.'

It has not taken
long for
communities like Flint to feel the downstream effects of a nationwide torrent
of state cuts to
Medicaid
, the government insurance program for the poor and
disabled. ..

Mrs. Vliet, 53,
who lives just
outside Flint, has yet to find a replacement for Dr. Sahouri.
"

I get it. The gist of the story is about the
financial woes of the Medicaid program, as administered by the states,
and how
doctors and other health providers cannot afford to care for people like
Carol. I get it.

The clear message in Carol's story is that we
have already
answered the straightforward question about the value of life. We've
answered it thousands and thousands of times every year in the country
when our
doctors and health providers turn away from treating all the Carol's in
the
nation.

This is the part I do not get - and hope I never
do.
How does a healthcare provider walk away from people who need care
knowing the
care is available? How exactly does that office manager continue to run
the numbers and find Carol's life too expensive? From a human
perspective, how
do the healthcare providers' workers do it? Do they ever check back in
with Carol to see if she's still alive, or do they just find a way to
wall off
the brutality in which they participate? Nurses tell me they cry, they
cry a lot.

I do not understand the mental and emotional
gymnastics
many people must go through to be able to tell another human being from
their
own community, their own neighborhood, their own family, that they are
sorry
but the drug or the treatment we have right here available to some to
relieve
suffering or even cure a disease is not available to all. Do the people
who deliver these death sentences have any sort of training about how to
tell
others that their lives have been deemed somehow less valuable to us
all?
Often the job of comforting that patient is left to a nurse. Those who
make the final (how apropos) decisions have often washed their hands of
the
human consequences by that time.

So, let's start asking not only those in elected
office but
also our health providers and others in our own spheres of influence,
"Do you
value each human life equally?" And if the answer is yes then we have
to
confront the inconsistency in our actions while we are still able to do
so. The for-profit insurance giants, the large pharmaceutical companies
and
the for-profit hospital corporations have already weighed in. All of
them
find it quite easy to quantify the quality of each life. Since we as
taxpayers will be supporting those life-and-death panelists so heavily
with
subsidies and the forced purchase of private insurance products, I think
we
have a right to see the criteria they use in the valuation of life
process. Maybe we would find Carol's life worth sparing.

I do not believe all the good doctors and other
health
professionals are so callous about life and human suffering that they
enjoy
that pain resulting from the current healthcare mess. But I do believe
that until more of them stand up and loudly say they will no longer sit
across
from patients like Carol and dismiss them from treatment, they will keep
being
complicit in the loss of life.

Medicaid patients matter; patients with
sub-standard
insurance coverage matter too. Their lives are no less valuable than
the
office managers' who calculate the upside-down financial outcomes for
their medical
practices of treating these human beings. The lives of Medicaid
patients
are as valuable as the doctors' lives who hire the office managers who
run the
numbers. The lives of the Medicaid patients are even as valuable as
the lives
of the powerful in our society who make the far-removed policy decisions
that
eventually play out at the patients' bedsides.

And will our elected officials ever make it to
the point
where they value each human life enough to extend the right to
healthcare to
all? Clearly right now we are living in times where a life like Carol's
isn't even as valuable as the re-election of her Congressional member.
That's how we currently value life.

When
we extend
the basic human right of healthcare to all in America, we will finally
have
answered the question in the affirmative. Do we value each life? Under
a
progressively financed system with a single standard of high quality
care for
all patients, yes we do. Life matters. Carol's life matters.