You may or may not be aware of the serious shortage of certain cancer and other critical medicines. Our news media, when they cover it at all, tend to give it a “Gee, isn’t that a shame!” before moving on to something with more visual appeal.
I would like to discuss it here, because while it is a hugely important physical health issue, it is also an indicator of our spiritual health. And our spiritual health is ailing.
There is rarely one reason for anything in these interrelated days. But one major reason for the shortage of important medicines is economics. The health industry is … well, an industry. Our pharmaceutical companies are in business to make a profit. Nothing wrong with making a profit – that’s what our economy is rooted in. But should the question of what medicine is available be simply a matter of what will make the most profit?
Sadly, this has become a political issue. It isn’t. Well, ok, it is, but it shouldn’t be.
Consider, you get insurance from a private company. That company is in it to make a profit. If you get sick, the company loses money. I always wanted to throw something at my radio or television when someone argued, “You don’t want a government bureaucrat getting between you and your doctor!” No? I’d rather have an insurance industry bureaucrat, who is committed to making a profit, getting between me and my doctor?? Been there. No thanks.
And now with medicines. Drug companies, who serve their management and stockholders, are making life and death decisions about who gets medicine, and indeed if a medicine is even available.
Leave the politics out of it. Ask yourself the spiritual question: do we have a commitment to the community, or is it just to ourselves?
Jesus taught us that we needed to consider the lowliest among us. So, incidentally did Muhammad. Community is also at the core of Judaism, Buddhism, Baha’ism and Hinduism. This idea that the bottom line is all that counts is an affront to every spiritual path there is – unless you consider “I want to be stinking rich and I don’t care about anybody else” a spiritual path.
I would love to see the Republicans and Democrats fighting over how we can truly make health care affordable to all citizens. Instead, they appear to be bickering over how many of the poor to cut loose. And I would like to see them fighting over how we can ensure that live-giving and life-saving medicines will be available to all citizens. Instead, the subject rarely if ever comes up.
I don’t think there is a political answer. But there is a community answer. There is a spiritual answer. There is, if you will, a “values” answer.
We are responsible for more than ourselves. We are responsible for more than our own comfort, and our own health. We are responsible to and for our community. And I believe we commit spiritual suicide when we forget that.
(Again, there’s more to this than “just” economics. Here’s a link to a fuller picture. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/10/04/140958404/shortages-lead-doctors-to-ration-critical-drugs)
(edited for a typo, 4/20)