Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Forcible health care leaves no right at all

Was it just a coincidence that the fate of the legislation implementing the government takeover of the health sector came down to a few votes from supposedly pro-life representatives? Or did it reflect the ugly truth about the path we Americans are being forced to take?

Since the earliest days of what became the medical profession people have had to deal with the fact that medical knowledge is like a two edged sword. Those with the knowledge to heal the body are also those most likely to have both the capacity and the opportunity to harm and kill the body. Inevitably therefore, every relationship between healer and patient requires trust.

Though these days we use the word "professional" with little or no regard for its original meaning, the concept probably developed as a way of dealing with this requirement. Healers were not just people with a certain kind of knowledge. They were people who professed to follow the way of life represented by someone (for the Greeks and Romans, a "blameless physician" named Aesculapius) so dedicated to life that he defied the ruler of the gods, choosing to die rather than to surrender the ultimate standard of that dedication. The deceptively simply first rule of their profession was "to do no harm." But the example they professed to follow implied a corollary, "even when power threatens me with death."

The medical professionals in the United States today are no longer bound by this standard of death defying dedication to life. Even if they still swore the simple oath that once expressed the rule of their profession, their willingness to tolerate in their ranks people who practice abortion or euthanasia would betray their surrender of the standard it implied.

For the physicians of our day, whether to do harm or refrain from doing it is a judgment call. When the judgment is forced upon them by the coercive force of law, they meekly surrender, even though the powers that be simply threaten their livelihood, not even their lives. Thanks to the assumptions and habits encouraged by centuries of virtuous dedication from people who kept faith with the simple ancient tradition, today's medical professionals by and large still live on the trust of millions of people willing to entrust their lives to their care. God alone knows why. But every day new instances come to light suggesting that the standard of integrity that came to be accepted by the learned ones (doctors) in areas of knowledge beyond the medical profession has broken down. Naturally, the trust engendered by that standard is also corroding.

Enter the Obama faction, with a proposal that forces people to accept the services of these "professionals" despite their abandonment of the oath that once assured people that their two edged knowledge would not be abused to serve the jealous power of greed and ambition. The so-called "right" to health care turns out to be enforced submission to the ministrations of people who will serve life or serve up death and wounds, as and when the powers that be require it of them. Thus subject to the arbitrary dictates of power, the practice of medicine goes on, but the idea of a medical profession can engender no more trust than that of a professional politician. The term indicates nothing more than a willingness to sell services for money, or at the behest of power, whatever the service required.

We must hope and pray that, whatever the condition of the profession, there are still individuals who of themselves remain dedicated to life, as once Aesculapius found it in himself to be. As God is our witness (and theirs) we can trust Him for the answer to this prayer. Tragically, however, trust will no longer be the determining factor of our fate with respect to health care. We will accept what the government dictates, or else. Whatever the Obama faction's propagandists say, there is no right in this, no right at all.


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