Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Politics of Health Care

I read this article a few weeks ago now from the New Yorker and was both moved and impressed by it. Its content is very powerful, and if you are disturbed by stories of the dying, then I wouldn't suggest you read it, but if you do have the courage and the time (it isn't short), then I would really recommend you do.

What struck me when I was reading it were two very powerful ideas. One is that all of us try and escape in our lives the inevitable fact we are going to die, and this is the one event that none of us can avoid. Yet, precisely because we run away from it, we never think about it. We have lost, as the writer of the article says, the art of dying, which is, as the classical philosophers knew, is just as important as living, and indeed might be the secret, paradoxically, of life itself. The second idea is that we spend all this money in the health service in the West to escape the inevitability of death even though we do not know how to die, whereas in the rest of the world the majority of the human race are dying of diseases that are perhaps curable. To me this is a much more serious question than philosophers normally talk about when discussing the ethics of dying. I am not really interested in the endless debates about whether euthanasia is good or a bad thing (if you were to push me in a corner, then I would probably agree with voluntary euthanasia, but I am aware of the problems with that as well), but how health care in the West eats up the resources of our planet just to keep us alive for another couple of months.