It is a popular belief that physicians take an oath to “first, do no harm.” They do not, however, they should. Not just physicians though — everyone. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, mechanics, bankers, mayors, governors, congressmen, presidents…… What does it mean to “do no harm”? Truthfully, I’m not really sure I know what it means, but I can imagine what it might look like. It would look like people caring for their fellow man beyond platitudes and pity. I would imagine it would stop lawmakers from making laws that are clearly harmful to any portion of the population. “But it’s not possible to make everyone happy.” I know this, but is it possible not to let people die for the sake of capitalism? There have been numerous Facebook debates this week about whether or not healthcare is a right. If I’m being honest, I think people get too caught up in semantics. No, healthcare is not a right spelled out by what is apparently the holiest of all documents ever written, the Constitution of the United States.
Let me take a moment to say this: I love the Constitution of the United States of America. It is a document that has stood the test of time and prevailed. It is a simple explanation of what the government cannot do. Yep, you read that correctly. The constitution is not so much about the rights of the people as it is about the limits set on the federal government by that ubiquitous group of men we lovingly call “the founding fathers.” The ‘founding fathers’ who, by the way, agreed with each other about as much as the democrats and republicans do today, really struggled to agree on what the government of this new country should look like. The first seven articles, which comprise the ‘original’ Constitution, do not contain a single right. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. They simply lay out the powers of each branch of government and how each one is to function.
There are actually very few rights outlined in the Constitution besides voting and drinking. Yes, there is a ‘bill of rights’, but they have much more to do with what the government cannot either do to you or stop you from doing.
So, are the only rights we have the ones outlined in the constitution? Where does that leave us? We can drink, vote, shoot guns and tell everyone about how much we love or hate it. Seems a little lacking to me.
What rights should we be guaranteed as humans? A few come to mind: safety, the right to self-determination, freedom; basically, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which is referred to in the 14th amendment, but again it’s telling the government that they can’t take those away from people “without due cause.”
While the Constitution does not go into detail about basic rights, in 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United States ratified. In it are 30 articles that are “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” The three above are part of it, but there is so much more. Like the right to marry whomever one chooses and the right to own property. The freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The right to one’s own opinion. The right not be belong to an association. And way at the bottom, at number 25 is the “right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services” and the “right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
How very refreshing to see that some entity somewhere cares about the well being of earth’s citizens. Why do we, a “Christian Nation” allegedly “Under God” not care to meet those same standards? Why do we think that some deserve for their illnesses to be treated while others remain sick? Why do we think an adequate standard of living is only for the wealthy? Why do we make health care a privilege?
It’s because we have been taught that God blesses the righteous and sends woes to the unrighteous. We equate wealth with morality and it is sickening. To be living in poverty means that you are not blessed by God and therefore not deserving of “handouts.” You are not a “worthy poor.” “If you would pray enough, you’d be healed.” “If you tithed enough, you’d have more money.” “Follow God and he will provide for all of your needs.” These words only sound good to those saying them. I am a Christian. I believe in God. I pray and go to church. I serve my community in His name. I study the bible. Hymns are the first songs that come to mind when I need to fill empty space. I am a Christian. I am also sick. Before I knew what was wrong, I was in so much pain that I just wanted it gone or me gone, and that is what I prayed.
God didn’t take me to heaven or take the pain away. No, He answered with a simple pill I take every night before bed. A pill that costs $87 a piece. Do the math. That’s crazy, right! Do you want to know what is even more crazy? In any other country it cost about $1. It is so much more expensive here because America not only worships the Constitution, but we worship capitalism as well. The ability for the government to negotiate with drug companies has been repeatedly voted down because of capitalism.
There is a place for capitalism, healthcare is not it. The right to live is not something that should ebb and flow with the market. It should not be reserved for those who can afford it. Health care may not be a right in the United States, but it is a Human Right and should not be withheld just because someone can’t afford it.