Friday, April 2, 2010

The Right to Health Care

You don’t build up the weak ones;
don’t heal the sick, don’t doctor the injured,
don’t go after the strays,
don’t look for the lost.
You bully and badger them.
Ezekiel 34:4 (The Message)

With those stern words, the Prophet Ezekiel condemns the leaders of Israel for not being good shepherds and caring for the weakest and most vulnerable among them. It is just one of countless passages in which the Bible calls us to care for one another.

In our Social Principles, the United Methodist Church states simply, “Health care is a basic human right.” The statement is found in paragraph #162 of the 2008 Book of Discipline. And the Methodist Church has held that same basic position since at least 1996.

(Those who know me may think that me quoting the Discipline is like the devil quoting scripture. Over the years I have tended to be more vocal about the Disciplinary passages with which I disagree, but the truth is that I agree with more than 99% of everything in the Discipline. My disagreements are confined to probably less than two pages of text in a 781 page document.)

Not all United Methodists agree with our statement in the Discipline, and there are probably some United Methodists who agree with the statement and still do not support the current Health Care Reform bill. Certainly there were UM Representatives and Senators on both sides of the issue. Through our General Board of Church and Society, we have advocated for a single payer option, and the current legislation does not go that far.

The statement in the Social Principles is not the last word on the issue, but it does express a fundamentally Christian approach, and it gives a very helpful perspective to the debate. The entire statement is printed below.

Health is a condition of physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being. John 10:10b says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Stewardship of health is the responsibility of each person to whom health has been entrusted. Creating the personal, environmental, and social conditions in which health can thrive is a joint responsibility—public and private. We encourage individuals to pursue a healthy lifestyle and affirm the importance of preventive health care, health education, environmental and occupational safety, good nutrition, and secure housing in achieving health. Health care is a basic human right.

Providing the care needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health after injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and government owes to all, a responsibility government ignores at its peril. In Ezekiel 34:4a, God points out the failures of the leadership of Israel to care for the weak:

“You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured.”

As a result all suffer. Like police and fire protection, health care is best funded through the government’s ability to tax each person equitably and directly fund the provider entities. Countries facing a public health crisis such as HIV/AIDS must have access to generic medicines and to patented medicines. We affirm the right of men and women to have access to comprehensive reproductive health/family planning information and services that will serve as a means to prevent unplanned pregnancies, reduce abortions, and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The right to health care includes care for persons with brain diseases, neurological conditions, or physical disabilities, who must be afforded the same access to health care as all other persons in our communities. It is unjust to construct or perpetuate barriers to physical or mental wholeness or full participation in community.

We believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care.

No comments:

Post a Comment