2009 Blog Posts Healthcare Social Issues

Sometimes Conservatives Get It Right: Government and End of Life Dilemmas

Through clenched jaws, and fluctuating surges of dread and high hopes, I am forcing myself to enjoy the current hellacious debate underway here in the United States over the Obama administration’s titanic struggle to enact substantive health care reform. Moreover, the longer I ponder the arguments pro and con, and the shifting cast of frequently shifty characters posturing in town halls, television studios and government chambers, the more aware I am of the inspiring nature of the overall process.

For better or worse, we, the people of the United States, are currently doing democracy as well as we possibly can. It is not perfect, but it seems to be working. The stakes are high, and the political maneuvers muscular. Some kind of bill will likely be passed in the name of health care reform, but the contents have not been codified.

The situation is fluid, and no particular coalition of partisans, including the one containing the President and all his supporters, can assume victory is theirs. As I watch the historic drama unfold, I can’t shake the escalating feeling that the dialogue is being conducted at too high a pitch.

People need to calm down. We also need to moderate our tone and behavior. Everyone needs to be more courteous. This can be accomplished without any faction losing face or advantage.

Having said that, I want to put my words into action by being more courteous myself. For example, I don’t intend from this point forward to be accusing anyone else of being an “avatar” of any sort. Moreover, from this point forward, I intend to devote more time and attention to understanding the opinions being expressed by those with whom I disagree.

In keeping with that practice, I take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge that Conservative participants in the health care reform debate are exercising a vitally important function. Given their ferocious opposition, they are forcing the Obama administration, and its supporters, to produce better ideas, more coherent proposals and better budget strategies.

Most important, Conservatives have raised several points that need to be taken more seriously by proponents of reform. This is particularly the case regarding a question repeatedly raised by Conservatives: what is the proper role of government regarding individual end of life decision-making. Like many of the Liberals and Progressives who have publicly commented on the matter since Conservatives began getting into everyone’s face with the question, I initially rejected this line of opposition as ridiculous, and somehow or another, intellectually underhanded. But after devoting close attention to the point Conservatives have been making, in sometimes clumsy and crude ways, I have come to believe that this issue needs to be addressed.

Decisions passed into law in the name of health care reform are going to fundamentally influence the character of life in this society. Moreover, any significant mistakes made now will almost certainly become institutionalized in ways that could end up harming us for decades. Given this, it does not take genius to understand why it makes sense for us to calm down and carefully articulate the proper role of government in regard to this aspect of life.

I suspect we will eventually come to understand that the establishment of a quasi-nationalized system of health care will also require the establishment of strong safeguards which ensure that citizens rights are protected as scrupulously as possible, separate and apart from budgetary considerations.

For now, I want to salute the august Conservatives who have done all or us a favor by forcing us to look more closely as this critically important issue.

In my next blog entry, I will address some of the most important negative ramifications of mishandling this matter.

In the interim, and in passing, I should like to note that this democracy stuff really is a lot like making sausage…

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Robert Terrell

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