The Ethical Issues in Health Care
Is health care in America a right? Does every American deserve to have coverage, whether or not he or she can afford to pay for it? Or is health care a personal benefit that one gets only if one is able to buy it?
These are ethical questions, to be sure … and part of a raging controversy that is sweeping all across America. Those who are opposed to “Universal Health Care” make the claim, properly, that there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that guarantees every American the right to free health care. People on the other side of this tinderbox issue argue that the Constitution is an old and outdated document without true relevance in our modern world. Their argument continues that life in modern America is much different than life in colonial America and that the Constitution, written more than 200 years ago, reflected the realities of the times … realities that are no longer relevant.
It’s an interesting argument … until you remember that the very foundation of America and the American way of life is based on individualism and personal responsibility. In other words, it is up to each person to fend for himself or herself, without help from the government. The role of government, as decried by the Founding Fathers, was primarily about National Defense … providing security for its citizens from foreign invaders and others who wished us harm.
The argument from the right goes further to state that the Federal Government would be greatly overstepping its legal rights and obligations if it were to take over health care for the sole purpose of providing coverage for every American. There is another reason why “Universal Health Care,” while seemingly ethical and humane, may not be necessary.
Every American citizen, whether covered by a health insurance plan or not, must be accepted in a hospital Emergency Room and treated. If he or she can’t pay, the hospital is required to absorb the cost, but still treat the injured or ill person to the best of its ability.
Many people say that under this “arrangement” uninsured people can get medical care and treatment, but they can’t choose the best doctors. They must accept the services of any doctor who is on duty when they need help. That’s true, but all doctors have spent years receiving their medical education and on-the-job training. In short, whether you know the physician or not, you can expect that he or she is professional and competent. And, of course, there is truth to that statement.
It’s clear that this issue is not going to fade away … that it will remain a front page story far into the distant future … that it will inflame passions … cause controversy … and result in endless debates in the halls of Congress, both houses.
And with all that happening, it’s unlikely that a clear-cut answer will emerge to the question posed in this article: it’s the question about ethics in health care. Does every American have the right to coverage at the expense of someone else?
The answer to that very difficult question may never be known.