Sunday, November 15, 2009

Patients' Rights In The US.

Peggy Mahar asks in the Washington Post:

What if we had a single-payer health-care system and someone like Jeb Bush or Sarah Palin were running the country?

Many liberals remain angry and disappointed that single-payer legislation never stood a chance in Washington. To them, a government-run health-care system seemed an obvious way to put patients ahead of profits.

But a single-payer system would have put us at the mercy of whomever happened to take control of Washington. I'm very happy to have a public plan as an option. But since I don't know who will be in the White House in the years to come, I'm glad that government-run health care won't be the only game in town. If you're not happy about the Stupak amendment, imagine what other limits a conservative government could impose on our health care.

Parts of the country remain more conservative on issues of life and death than many progressives remember. When single-payer advocates imagine single-payer health care, they often look to Canada as an example of how it would work. But America isn't Canada; many of our fellow citizens are more conservative than the average Canadian. Moreover, in the United States we have let the dividing line between church and state blur. Christian conservatives are a political force in their own right, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has felt free to weigh in on health-care reform. Under a conservative president, such beliefs might be reflected in single-payer health policies.

She concludes:

So I want to hedge my bets. I want alternative insurance options, especially from nonprofits such as Kaiser Permanente. And I don't want to find myself locked into an insurance plan run by conservatives -- or Democrats -- who feel they have a right to impose their religious beliefs on my access to care.

Because the US government has failed to properly protect patients' rights, instead favoring ideology or big insurance, I think she has a point. What we see with the imposition of Stupak-Pitts, in an atmosphere where few laws provide for individual patient rights of conscience, is an environment where health decisions are controlled by large health organizations like the Catholic church (which operates under Ethical and Religious Directives set by the Vatican) and greedy big pharma corporations who have a reason use aggressive care.

Her point then is that some governments have enough patient protections to ensure that access to services is considered a right.

The political dynamic in the US, a conservative bartering of patients' rights for the sake of ideology or corporate independence, does make Mahar's point worthy of discussion.

Aside: I'm not sure her point about Canada being less conservative than the US is valid. Note the incredible struggle they are having there regarding end of life care and aid in dying.

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