Opinion: Deep down we know: Health care is a right

At this moment, two events crowd my consciousness, requiring some comment. First, Donald Trump Jr.’s dalliance with a Russian lawyer in hopes of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. Second, the Trumpcare bill pending in the Senate.

An email chain unabashedly reveals the Russian government’s plan to support the Trump candidacy, a fact that does not seem to have surprised Trump Jr. How could material support from a historically hostile government be good, or even be rationalized? The email, from Russia-linked publicist Rob Goldstone, states:

“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

The email chain directly contradicts what the White House has been saying publicly for months. Junior, along with then campaign manager Paul Manafort and super-son-in-law Jared Kushner, hustled off to meet a Russian lawyer, and have concealed the existence of the meeting or details of it ever since.

There’s more to say about this, but there will be time, and I’ve elected to spend this space on something more urgent: the Trumpcare bill. However important collusion with Russians may be, it doesn’t as immediately threaten the lives, health and happiness of so many millions of us in the way that the bill pending in the Senate does.

Obamacare really boils down to whether medical care is a necessity or a luxury. At a minimum, we all need air, water, food, clothing and shelter. These are necessities; we cannot live without them. You can think of it in terms of feeding a child. If your child is starving and will die without food, can you morally refuse to break the window of a bakery to get the needed bread? For that, in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” Jean Valjean spent 20 years in prison. Yet, Valjean is no villain, but one of the great heroes of literature. The point is that natural law sometimes supersedes human law, and necessity can create rights. The child had a natural right to the bread and Valjean violated no moral law in taking it — indeed, would have violated his moral duty had he not done so.

An Op-Ed piece by a New York City emergency room doctor makes the point. He’s treated many unconscious patients brought to him by ambulance. He never asks their permission to render treatment. Indeed, the good Samaritans who found them and got them there did not question whether medical treatment was affordable and should be given. Some were victims of emergency medical conditions, some had been assaulted and nearly killed. But in the end, a few, who lacked insurance or the resources to pay for the care they had already received, upon gaining consciousness complained about the decision to save their lives, saying they would rather have died allowing family members to collect life insurance, than face financial ruin.

Like a loaf of bread for a starving child, emergency care, maternity care and care for debilitating health conditions such as cancer and birth defects is not a choice; it is a necessity. In the July 10 New York Times, Dr. Farzon A. Nahvi wrote:

“So why does this happen with health care? The answer is that we don’t truly believe in free-market medicine. We know that in an empathetic and caring society, life is valued above all else, especially when the life in question is in the most helpless condition possible. Deep down inside, we all intuitively know that health care is not a free market, or else society would not allow me to routinely care for people when they are in no position to make decisions for themselves.

“Republicans need to be honest with themselves and the public: If they want medicine to be truly free-market, then they have to be willing to let the next man or woman they find lying unconscious in the street remain there and die.”

In the Kansas City Star on July 11 Michael Gerson wrote about a woman, Medina, who is struggling to feed a starving family in famine-wracked Kenya. So, why should I care? Gerson answers in writing about the international response to this crisis. “Whatever happens, Medina says, will be ‘God’s will.’ But a failure of compassion would be entirely our own.”

We care because we’re wired that way. We have to care or we stop being human. Let’s just face it; health care is a right.

— William Skepnek is a longtime resident of Lawrence.