health care- are we asking too much?

“Americans’ expectations for medical care are too high, and the resolve of politicians to avert a health care crisis is too low.” -Dr. Timothy Johnson this past week at North Park University (he is an ABC medical corresspendent, with both an M.Div. from North Park and a MD.) The article that contains this quote goes on to explain more of what he means, but what do you think?

Americans have an expectation that modern medicine and technology should be able to heal our bodies from almost anything, and if medicine can’t fix it now, then we should do more research so we can do so in the future. This expectation often reveals itself to me whenever I am watching a “medical” drama, like ER. We believe that the person will pull through, no matter how severe the injury, and when they don’t we feel this sense of failure. Could more have been done? What went wrong?

In one sense it is absolutely right to feel that death is a failure. Death is natural, in that it happens to all of us, but it is also unnatural. Theologically, we weren’t really meant to die, and death is a manifestation of the fallen-ness of our world. Yet, is modern medicine the right place to turn in the face of death and disease?

Theologically, I don’t know if we should depend on modern medicine as our escape from disease, yet at the same time, I know there are millions of people suffering in this world from diseases we were just not meant to have and that God doesn’t want for us. Should we have high expectations of healthcare because God didn’t intend to have disease and death in the world in the first place? Or should we lower our expectations of healthcare in coming to terms that we do simply live in a fallen and broken world?

I have some pretty unorthodox ideas about health care. I question how much money we should spend in saving one rich American while we let millions of people in poverty around the world die of diseases like AIDS and malaria. Is it worth extending one life for the price of saving so many others’ lives? I often wonder if I myself will do everything possible to live on in the face of fatal disease or extreme old age in the face of my current convictions. I also know that refusing expensive health care for myself would not mean that it would go to those who need it most, so it is a purely hypothetical question at this point. Yet, I think we need to examine our current situation and the high expectations Americans have for our own health care while at the same time having such low expectations of health care for those in poverty around the world.

I think I also agree with the other side of Dr. Johnson’s point; there is not enough resolve by politicians to avert a health care crisis. Health care makes up a decent size of our GDP, and any time so much of our economy rests on one industry will be slow to make changes. I don’t know what the right answer is for this current health care mess, and it is a mess. I do know that I don’t agree with capitalizing on people’s illnesses and that health care that doesn’t serve those who need it most (the sick) is worthless. It seems odd that we have set up a system for health care that can profit by excluding those who actually need health care.

And finally, because my hope lays with God’s work through the church, and not through politics, what may the Church’s response be to the current health care crisis? Maybe we need to set up our own network of loving health care providers and all create common pots among local church communities to support these people so that everyone can access quality health care (not only those inside the churches, but those outside who are in need). Any creative thoughts, anyone?

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