Friday, January 8, 2010

The Fight for Patients' Rights.

Why does the US still not have a bill of patients' rights that guarantees equal, affordable access to scientifically-proven, effective medical services?

Because patients' rights advocates fall into a number of devoted, diligent but uncoordinated and underfunded groups:

Disability rights
LGBT rights
Women's reproductive rights
End of life/Elder rights
Minority rights

And because they are fighting resource-rich, organized, powerful opponents which, despite their disparagement of "elitists" or "intellectuals," inhabit and influence the halls of government in an unprecedented way:

The medical industry has strongly fought any patients' rights bill introduced in legislation. Over the past dozen years, more than 5 bills have been defeated. They have spent vast amounts of money to prevent government protection of individual and group rights; they oppose regulation at all levels.

The church, both the Catholic and Fundamentalist/Evangelical Right has spent the years since Roe v. Wade (when they allied around the common goal of imposing "traditional values" on our pluralistic society) building their unified "pro-life" effort. Pro-life means everything the ideological right is against, from women's reproductive services to aid in dying, from marijuana rights to gay equality. These organizations enjoy tax-exempt status, have been brought into government to provide social services, and are not required to register as lobbyists when they work to influence legislation.

The state has refused to look at patients' rights as an Establishment Clause issue, preferring to, when it does protect rights, use the rights to privacy. Even the Supreme Courts rulings on Establishment clause grounds (predominantly in the area of schools and public property) have been unpredictable.

Until opposition to patients' rights by industry and the church are recognized for what they are - unregulated capitalism and discrimination - corporations, medical associations and religious ideology will continue to shape how medicine is delivered.

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