When I worked as a janitor in a hospital ER, I once saw half a dozen EMTs explode through the ambulance bay doors with a dying infant on a stretcher. The baby was so tiny that the paramedic used only his thumbs to administer CPR.
I watched nervously as the people I worked with suddenly became real life heroes, with every doctor doing everything he or she could to save that child.
I had never seen a more professional group of talented individuals perform so well under pressure. Tragically, the child passed away soon after arriving.
Sympathy and compassion drive these health care workers to clock in every day to a job with grueling hours, in hospitals where most Americans will eventually die, according to CBS News. Yet, health care as an industry is driven by forces completely antithesis to the sympathy and compassion of hospital workers. Health care is motivated by greed and profit.
The fact that there are people who dedicate their lives to the health and life-satisfaction of other people speaks profoundly of the worth of our species. Those who have exploited human suffering under the guise of ethical capitalism are our nation’s greatest disgrace.
The current debate about health care is simply an extension of this battle between individual compassion and industry-wide greed. The quasi-Libertarian stance of millions of Americans who believe that health care is a privilege for those with the means to afford it, not an inherent right, does not mesh well with the ethical realities of health care.
The doctors, nurses and EMTs I worked with labored on diligently after the child’s death, expecting similar events to reoccur every day for the rest of their careers. Tragedies are rushed to them on wheels on a nearly daily basis.
For too long, greedy businessmen and women have held health care hostage. They have tricked the American people into believing that denying a dying person quality treatment is an acceptable business sacrifice and not an unforgiveable moral failing.
How can we agree that it is the public’s duty to ensure the streets are safe, and the trash truck comes every week, while we leave the lives of our most vulnerable to the uncaring invisible hands of the free market?
If society must spend more to ensure quality health care for all people, it is a cost we should pay with smiles on our faces, not anger and greed in our hearts.
I have seen how simple compassion can motivate people. They might not admit it, but some of the doctors whose kindness I admire, are motivated by their compassion — not their paychecks — to treat dying patients. When a patiently unfortunately dies, it is their compassion— not their paychecks — that keep them up at night. Although they cannot always see the high quality of their moral character, we have the heart to reassess our own moral character.
This is not merely a battle between those with hearts and those with large wallets.
This is a choice between what is easier, and what is right.
Reach the columnist at Jacob.Evans@asu.edu or follow the columnist at @jacobevansSP.