and them what don't, won't
and what he don't take
the undertaker takes as you exit
--Them That Has, Gets,
The Andrew Sisters
The dice was loaded from the start
-Romeo and Juliet, Dire Straits
Maybe it's just the whole world
is like central casting.
They got it all rigged before you ever show up
--They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)
We’ll never be sick a day in our lives my love
simply because we can’t afford to be
--Mink River, Brian Doyle
Sunday Homily: The Fallacy of Christian Emotionalism.
Mr. Doyle's characters live on the edge, as do the one of six Americans at or below the poverty line. Their willing health is romantic, but life doesn't deal out romance. Hard facts dictate limited resources, and everyone doesn't get everything.
Thing is, we know it. That is why everyone is afraid to make a move regarding actual health care reformation. We are all very grateful for the drugs we get and the five minutes of the doctor's time. None of us wants to be thrown on the ash heap too soon, and somewhere along the way someone instilled the idea that we have a purpose for roaming this earth (even though for many, that seems to be little beyond patronizing Costcos to lay up 128 oz. bags of artificially-colored chips.)
If we would look at our existence rationally, there are only so many resources, and they are not apportioned equally. You and I both know that we do not get Cadillac health care. We accept something middling if we are fortunate to have some sort of coverage. If we choose to show compassion, we feel for those unfortunate enough to never have been at the receiving end of the bennie chute and so must trudge along with bad teeth and pulling ramps from the side of the road in the hopes of building concoctions to keep them going.
Instead of fearing "death panels", Ranger would welcome them, both at the state and federal levels -- death panels based upon medical realities, based in logical thinking, shucked of the emotionalism and false Christian ideas which swirl about any current efforts to address the thing.
We will not spend much time deconstructing the religious hypocrisy, but if one were to live by The Word, one would not lay up material things and would be buried in a pine box or incinerated (ashes to ashes, dust to dust). How is it the deceased enters the natural flow when hermetically sealed in a locked vault? Jesus does not speak of prolonging life in perpetuity on this physical plane. The Lazaruses and Methuselahs are few and far between. So, perpetuation of life beyond reasonable means is not a part of scripture.
Mercy, compassion and love are, however. The question is, how best to show those qualities? Is it always shown through keeping the organism alive through superhuman means, even when the sentience (soul?) has left the building (=body)? That may be interpreted as a selfish cruelty on the behalf of those who cannot let go.
The system bears a heavy burden during the final days, weeks, months and even years prior to the expiration of a critically ill person. Most Medicare costs are seen then. We prolong life that will benefit naught, except to line some health executive's pockets, and we do it unquestioningly, meeting any opposition with fierce and unthinking opposition.
"All life is sacred", is it not? If so, then we needs define "life", and perhaps differentiate that from existence in extremis. If mercy is the prime objective, that would seem mandatory.
As it stands, emotion and prejudice rule what should be the most rational of decisions. This is not a question of choosing who lives and dies; this IS a question of applying a medical protocol to determine what intervention are not merely heroic, but in fact, futile, and which may bring benefit.
It seems most of us would prefer to reach a reasonable end, knowing that death and taxes are the only sure thing, without extreme measures to extend our lives when there will be no further quality to be wrung from extending the quantity. Death panels could help revitalize our medical system by prioritizing and categorizing states of being and allocating resources in an equable manner. This would be a step in reining in the health care behemoth.
The NYT's Paul Krugman calls us out this week:
"A serious fiscal plan for America would address the long-run drivers of spending, above all health care costs, and it would almost certainly include some kind of tax increase. But we’re not serious: any talk of using Medicare funds effectively is met with shrieks of “death panels,” and the official G.O.P. position — barely challenged by Democrats — appears to be that nobody should ever pay higher taxes" (The Austerity Delusion).
Krugman concludes, "The confidence fairy (= hope) won’t save us from the consequences of our folly." So we languish in a head lock we won't get out of because who will let granny die, or the hydroencephalocele baby who is doomed to die anyway, but who will undergo extravagant outlays of medical resources and funds during its brief existence? Because somewhere in the arcana, Christianity demands that hydroencephalocele's keep breathing until superhuman efforts fail to continue to enable that possibility.
Meanwhile, Ranger has an associate who is caught up in the folly of a poorly administrated health care system of limited resources. She is medically disabled but fairly young and in fairly good health. A recently FDA-approved drug might provide the help she has been seeking to become a more productive member of society.
However, that drug is caught up in a precious Big Pharma + drug manufacturer monopoly: It is not covered by her plan's formulary, and must be ordered by the doctor from the manufacturer (even though FDA-approved.) Someone stands to benefit from this Rube Goldberg distribution scheme, and it is not her. It will cost hundreds of dollars per month, and she will probably not be able to afford this. Yet we choose to afford to allow people like her -- prospective contributing members of society -- to limp along with the minimal resources currently provided.
We live in a country where medical caravans visit the most under-served parts of our country a few times a year and must turn away hundreds each time for the most basic of health care. Ranger contends that precious medical resources like health care professionals should not be providing frivolous services like nose and boob jobs and penis implants. What a revolution THAT would be, if we trained our attention on things that actually mattered.
It is the most human of all questions: What constitutes a life? It is our contention that being brain dead and on life support is not living.
--Lisa and Jim