American Health Care Reform – A Good End Does Not Justify Evil Means


Commentary by Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carámbula

(Editor’s Note: Msgr. Barreiro, a Doctor of Dogmatic Theology and attorney with years of experience in international diplomacy at the UN, is head of the Rome office of Human Life International.)

All persons of good will need to understand the clear and present danger with which the US is being menaced by the health reform proposed by the Obama Administration. Abortion will be multiplied, the U.S. will move ahead on the road towards euthanasia, conscience rights will be in jeopardy: but what is worse, the United States would start moving towards a tyrannical, socialist government that would be the source of all sort of moral evils.

The current debate on health care reform has to be framed on the basis on some clear principles that are accessible to all persons of good will. The starting point is that health care is a basic human right. All human beings have a right to life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

A consequence of this right is that all human persons are entitled to receive from society the necessary conditions to support life. If those conditions to support life were denied, the right to life would become illusory. One of the necessary means is appropriate health care.

This human right is complemented with the duty of each individual person to do all that he can to protect his own life, which at the same time is the first natural inclination that we find in all human beings. In this case the duty of the person is that, through gainful employment, he should be able to support himself and his natural dependents. This self-support should include healthcare.

The question that has always confronted us is when a person, either due to dysfunctions of society or his own personal handicaps, is not able to provide for himself or his family. In this case a Christian view of society on the basis of justice and charity leads to the support of those persons.

The Catholic Church has established hundreds of health care institutions dedicated primarily to assistance of the poor and destitute that could not afford to pay for appropriate health care. A good many non-Catholic Christian groups have also established such institutions.

In the recent magisterium of the Catholic Church, we can see the recognition of healthcare as a basic human right belonging to all human beings. This was proclaimed by Pius XI in his Encyclical letter, Quadragesimo Anno, n. 28, John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 42, par. 3, and Benedict XVI in his Encyclical Letter, Caritas in Veritate, n. 43. This position has been reiterated in letters to Congress by Bishops William Murphy on July 17th and of Cardinal Justin Rigali of August 11th.

The evident fact that society has an obligation to provide health care to those persons who are not able to obtain it by themselves, should not lead to the conclusion that this service should be provided by the Federal Government. A health care system administered by the Federal Government presents a multitude of problems.

Some have ascertained that the health care reform that is currently being considered by Congress is based on the good end of providing health coverage to all those who lack it. But there are reasonable grounds to be doubtful about this. There could be reasonable concern and doubt if that stated good end is just a cover up and a Trojan Horse to promote birth control and family planning, to expand in horrible ways the availability of abortion, to legalize euthanasia and to overwhelm the rights of conscience of all the persons that are rightfully opposed to those immoral acts.

We have to keep in mind that rights of conscience are violated not only by forcing a person to do what is against his beliefs, but also forcing him to refer a patient to another. If the rights of conscience of health care providers, medical workers and other health care personnel like nurses and pharmacists are not respected it would have catastrophic consequences for American society. All Catholic hospitals and probably many others belonging to different religious groups will have to close, and a substantial amount of their health care personnel will have to leave their professions or emigrate.

We also have to consider that this health program or any other administered by the Federal Government is another step towards socialism, and as a consequence towards the establishment of a despotic and dictatorial government.

Today we witness a constant growth of government programs that control increasing sectors of society. Those programs as a whole represent a growing erosion of the legitimate and traditional freedoms of individuals, and of many organic and natural intermediate societies like the family, villages and towns and the States of the Union.

The persons who established the American Republic were well aware of the risks of despotism that go hand in hand with the existence of a powerful central government. They placed in the Constitution all sort of checks and balances. The establishment of a national health care system would be another step towards the erosion of those constitutional guarantees.

A serious concern shared by most persons who are aware of the U.S. health care system’s problems is the continuing massive increase in the cost of that system. The constant growth of the Federal deficit makes it very unlikely that the central government will reduce those health care costs. More so, what is likely to happen is that the establishment of the proposed reformed national health care system will instead expand the cost of that system through a bloated bureaucracy that will actively promote a materialistic anti-life ideology.

The establishment of this health system will be an attack of the organic principle of subsidiarity. Instead, Americans need to design and develop all sorts of initiatives: first, at a local level, and then at a State level, that would provide some guarantees of health care assistance to the poor and destitute. Taking into account the principle of gratuity so well developed in the encyclical of Benedict XVI Caritas in Veritate, the establishment of non-profit medical facilities and non-profit insurance groups should be encouraged. In the current demographic circumstances those institutions should give a priority to the protection of well established large families.

Last, but not least, the cost of the proposed system should be taken into account. During this time of economic crisis, the tax burden upon American citizens should not be increased. But it should also be considered that excessive taxation not only paves the way towards despotism, it damages the economy. It paves the way towards despotism because one of the guarantees of personal freedom, the establishment of a family patrimony, would be eroded by overtaxation. It damages the economy by killing economic incentive and eliminating disposable income, two of the growth engines of a free market economy.

All persons of good will should make a serious effort to understand the deleterious implications of the Obama administration’s initiatives and oppose this health care reform, through prayer and all possible moral and legal means.

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