A recent NYTimes article caught my eye that reported how a California Court had ruled in favor of the end-of-life measure that was recently passed in the state. As one who supports this option for terminally ill patients I was pleased that a fifth state now allows its citizens in this country the right to die with dignity – when the quality of life that they currently experience is negligible and often unbearably painful.
As in all other previous attempts to push this effort through, there are those who oppose the new law. In this case it is the Life Legal Defense Foundation, the American Academy of Medical Ethics and several physicians.
Their arguments are pretty much the same rationale as in previous cases – that it’s a violation of the physicians oath and that “the law puts all kinds of patients at risk of loved ones’ coercing them to end their lives.” And though these arguments have merit, the greater needs of the dying person that demand such laws be in place should have primacy.
There are physicians who see euthanasia under critical conditions as a merciful form of rendering care for their patient when pain and certainty of death are abundantly apparent. And steps can be established to assure the request of the dying person is not coming from pressure by close relatives who want to evade any responsibility towards them or seek perhaps a beneficial inheritance.
But it was the argument that claimed “it could become a way out for people who are not insured or who fear high medical bills” that really struck a chord with me. Of all the cruel measures to impose on a terminally ill patient, why refuse them the right to die with dignity if they cannot afford the health care they need to sustain life at a meaningful level?
In a country where political leaders are manipulated all too easily by the health care industry to vote against any law that would jeopardize their profit margins and ensure all Americans the right to health care without regards to one’s income, like Medicare for all, it should come as no surprise that many terminally ill human beings do not want to mortgage what little property they have or stick their loved ones with enormous debt to gain a few more weeks or months of life that is often devoid of any quality.
If people of good conscience who oppose a legal means to end one’s life for personal or religious reasons, then they should be on the forefront of the effort to fight for a single payer plan funded by taxes, much like the the rest of the industrial world does. America may indeed have the greatest health care system in the world but it is really only affordable to a small percentage of Americans. Most others have to go into debt if any serious, long-term illness affects them, putting a tremendous strain on their budgets that may require mortgaging their home or denying their children a college education. And then of course there are those who don’t even have that option when they fall below the poverty line.
Quality health care throughout the life of every American person would likely prevent the numbers of terminally ill people who want the choice of death over suffering had their needs been met early in their life. Frequent testing would pick up those health issues that can lead to a terminal diagnoses too early. Early diagnoses and the remedies available then can slow or even reverse many conditions before they reach a level where costs are beyond most people’s means.
A healthy society is a productive society so if personal costs are the reason why some balk against a Universal health care system in this world then reflect on what this country is already paying in health care costs. The U.S. has the highest per capita costs for health care than most other developed countries.
It ranks #33 on the global health care index showing where countries like Sri Lanka, Turkey and India live better lives than those in the richest country in the world.
It is our fetish with market capitalism that puts our health care needs on the same level with commodities we produce to make our cars and the clothes we wear. In a world where getting around can easily be achieved by walking, biking or public transportation and where accessing clothes by hand me downs and discount outlets, can, or better yet, should we reduce the health care needs of people through the same mechanism?
If people really care about life and those who want to terminate it then it seems only natural that we would do all we can to extend that life through a health care system that works to prevent terminal illnesses and not treat them after the fact, often to the enduring pain and outrageous costs that some will have to contend with.