November 6th, 2009


Health Care as a Human Right - "The First Question"

I just received an e-mail from Kucinich and Dingle that pretty much puts to sleep any chance of a fair hearing for Single Payer as the House crafts its bill. This is really no surprise as the handwriting has been on the wall ever since the President condemned the effort for Single Payer with faint praise.... he was for it, if he was starting from scratch, but political realist that he is, and wanting "reform" he is willing to settle for something that he can get through a very divided and hesitant congress. After all, what can one truly expect from politicians who exist in a world of necessary compromise?

The situation in health care is very bad. But most people are healthy. So, it's someone else's problem. Leadership requires the ability to focus disinterested, denying people on a problem that doesn't immediately affect them, and in our society, we live through our frontier, independent, John Wayne image, fed by pervasive materialism that is our society and its values.

This view could lead to depression, existential depression, if one ruminates. I am professionally pre-occupied with health care, largely individual, which I can do something about, but never, almost never, enough. The act, itself, is therapeutic for me. In my battle with existential depression, I must wage the fight, and I do. As a physician, I'm very happy in this mission of social good, and personal survival. It's philosophical and psychological, and for me, not religious if religion requires theism.

PNHP, Single Payer, T.R. Reid, Maggie Mahar, and now, have provided me with enlightenment and inspiration, and is very provocative as a forum of largely like-minded and thoughtful progressives. Orange County is not overflowing with such folks. So I find myself, while I'm focusing on Health Care as a political issue, in fact, a timely imperative, turning more to, than the wonderful community of Live Journal. At LJ, I can rant and rave... like this... about Porsches, and college football, and an occasional movie, and WW II history.

But, I wander from my topic. I agree with William Tsaio, Harvard health economist, when he says: "Before you can set up a health care system for any country, you have to know that country's basic ethical values. The first question is: Do people in your country have a right to health care? If the people believe that medical care is a basic right, you design a system that means that anybody who is sick can see a doctor. If a society considers medical care to be an economic commodity, then you set up a system that distributes health care based on the ability to pay. And then the poor are pretty much left out."

He's right! And that's it in one clear paragraph. Guess where every other industrialized nation is and where we are, and that's why we just popped up as #30 in an assessment of infant mortality.

If the first question is one of ethics and morality, who better than to consult then the clergy. So I did, and I turned to a most liberal rabbi, the rabbi of the synagogue to which Lin and I belong, because of our ethnic tie to the Jewish community and our Jewish heritage. This is the synagogue and the rabbi that accept Jewish atheists.

This is a start:

Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 9:00 PM
Cc: Rabbi Arnold Rachlis; Michael Malouf, M.D.
Subject: Health Care as a Moral Imperative

Inspired by this column s Universal Health Care a Human Right?
By Tom Head,
and by T.R. Reid: “The Healing of America; A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care.”

Going beyond the definition of a right, I feel that health care, universally accessible and available to all residents in our country, is inferred in the social contract of our participation as human beings, as social animals, mammals that live in a group, and protect our young. We extend the biology, as reasoning creatures, to justify our values, and we create social institutions to advance our common interests. I’m a member of one of those bodies, the profession of medicine, which I entered, truly, to help my fellow man. I’ve been doing it for 45 years, never questioning the value of helping my fellow men in distress.

I’m a secular humanist atheist, but I have values.... Human life. I’m surrounded by a nation of church goers, and I wonder why the guardians of morality aren’t in the forefront of this fight for health care justice. Where’s the clergy and the evangelists? If this isn’t right vs wrong, I don’t know what is, but where are those folks who quote the scriptures?

Help! Where do I find the members of the clergy to ask this question?

Inspired by this column <>

Laurence Lewin, M.D.
Santa Ana, CA

.... and this was the response:

Dear Larry,

In general, you are right, but there have been ads and letters that I've signed along with hundreds of clergy. We also talked by phone with President Obama to give him support, as well.

Thanks for writing.



Now what does he mean, "in general"?