On Humanism
by Carl J. Estersohn

There are, as we speak, upwards of 42 million men, women, and children in the United States that have no health insurance coverage. Of these, arguably, some can afford to pay their health care bills, when necessary. Unquestionably, most cannot. When serious illness strikes this category of our citizens, they end up as wards of the locality, in a county hospital, to receive whatever treatment is available at that time, in that place. Depending on the locality, care can be anywhere from good to minimal. In no sense can it be guaranteed that they will receive the adequate quality care necessary to sustain life and to cure disease -- that would depend on the availability of personnel, equipment, and the interests of the care giver at that time, in that place.

The implication, clearly, is that at this moment, in this nation, in our society, men, women and children will live or die because they have or have not the money to pay for adequate quality treatment and medication. No argument -- the care exists, and the medication is available. It simply is a question of economics as to how it is distributed.

In the year 1993, at the beginning of the Clinton administration, a task force headed by the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, set about to create a system of universal health care delivery, whereby good quality medical care would be available to everyone in this nation in time of need. By the end of the year 1994, the process ended in failure, and precluded a sharp redirection in political balance in the following Congress, whereby an unfriendly political party took power and insured that there would be no further attempts at health care reform in this nation for some years to come.

The political machinations that preceded the downfall of the administration's endeavor are too complicated and anecdotal to be chronicled here. Suffice it to say that educated men, intelligent and dedicated to their ideas, chose to put their political interests and personal interests before the good and welfare of the public they serve.

In the preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, we read "...promote the General Welfare...", a part of the statement of purpose that clearly gives that sacred responsibility to the elected members of the government that serves us. How can our servants misinterpret this trust to mean that their position and personal goals supersede this obligation that they have taken an oath to execute? Where is the justification for that kind of blatant disregard for their responsibility to their electorate?

Tangentially, we can ask the question "what does it mean to be human?" What is really the essence of our humanness? In a word, it is the concept that as humans, we care about each other enough to be aware of our essential oneness -- as a species, as a society, and as a planet. This idea, absolutely mandatory as a prerequisite to our survival on this earth, is nowhere evident in the behavior of the conscienceless directors of our destiny -- our public servants indeed!

As a matter of fact, there exists today in our nation, ample health care providers, services, and medication to treat every man, woman and child with quality, healing, life-saving services -- and they are economically deliverable to all who are in need. It is simply not in the financial interests of any of the people involved -- from the brain surgeons to the insurance companies -- to provide it. This, in a nutshell, is the current state of inhumanism that infuses our social fabric today.

The United States is the only nation in the civilized western world that does not serve its people with the best available medical care regardless of ability to pay. How did we allow ourselves to reach this disgraceful condition?

Unless and until we adopt, as a people, a nation, a society, the simple humanistic principle of our oneness in this universe, we are doomed to extinguish ourselves as a species.

Published March 13, 1997
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