07 December 2010

Is Life Optional?

I'm watching AC360 on CNN and have just been appalled by the latest out of Arizona.  In case you're unaware, their Governor Jan Brewer signed off on eliminating an organ transplant program, deeming it an "optional" course of treatment that the state could not justify covering.  Mind you, the total cost is $1.4 million a year.  I don't have that kind of money lying around and neither do you, but it's not a make-or-break sum for a state budget.  Even when that state is Arizona, there's $1.4 million to be found elsewhere in the budget.  Gov. Brewer has tried to sell her constituents on the notion that this was forced by the health care reform act signed into law by President Barack Obama, but she signed her legislation first.  There was no health care reform on the books when she threw a hundred Arizona citizens to the wolves.

Think about this for a moment.  Those people will certainly die.  We know they will not live much longer with failing organs.  Remember The Six Million Dollar Man?  They had the technology and the capability to save Col. Steve Austin; no consideration was made for whether it was a convenient cost to be paid.  The man's life was at stake, and they acted to save it.  These real people aren't asking for extravagant bionic limbs.  They're asking for viable organs to replace their dying ones.  It's not the lack of technology that stands in the way of extending those lives, nor is it beyond our capability.  It's a money issue.

We're supposed to be the greatest nation on Earth, and as an American I want to believe this.  But you simply cannot tell me that any good comes from or went into a policy that says we're not going to save a life because we'd rather have the money.  I know, critics will insist that these procedures are performed by highly skilled physicians using state of the art equipment; they should be compensated for their skill and cost, etc.  Yes, they should--but at some point someone is going to have to admit that they only went into that line of work for the money.  That, friends, is the root of all our health care woes.

Doctors--and patients--are sold on the idea that there are only two kinds of physicians who treat the poor: the rookies paying their dues and the hacks that can't get work anywhere reputable.  If a doctor was any good, why would she be at the clinic?  Doctors are discouraged from remaining at such facilities; their peers will doubt they're "serious" about their careers.  Arizona has done nothing to encourage qualified transplant surgeons to save lives; they've simply begun to hand out death certificates.  Sarah Palin was right: there is a death panel.  And at its head is the Republican governor of Arizona.