Sunday, August 09, 2009


Abortions, Euthanasia, and Organ Transplants

We Americans take our religious convictions seriously. The "swift boat" group that's trying to derail President Obama's efforts to reform and improve our health care system is using religion as one of its tools against reform. Abortion is a big issue among many Christians, including Catholics and many Protestants. The reformed health care system would use taxpayer dollars to pay for optional abortions. Another issue is euthanasia or assisted suicide. In the reformed system Medicare would provide free counseling about death. The fear is that taxpayer dollars would be used to persuade old people to commit suicide to save the high cost of care required during the last year of life.

I can't resist adding some silliness to these arguments. If they were numerous enough to form a significant voting bloc, Jehovah's Witnesses would be targeted with advertisements that would point out that the reformed system would pay for blood transfusions and other organ transplants with their tax dollars. Mormons would be told that the meals served in hospitals and other medical care facilities would include coffee. Muslims would be told that the meals would include pork. Orthodox Jews would be told that they would include lobster, clam, and rabbit, along with pork.

I can speak to the euthanasia argument from personal experience. During the last few months of her life, we had home hospice care for my late wife. The care included nurses who came almost every day to assess her condition, instructions to my daughter and to the hired caregiver about pain medication, and counseling for me, the presumable survivor of the sad event we would soon experience. There was no extra charge to me for the hospice care. It was recommended by Kaiser Permanente, where my wife and I received our medical care. I can only conclude that Medicare pays for the hospice care. The hospice service included a counselor who counseled me about life after the death of my wife. I expect that after the health care system reform is in place, Medicare will still pay for hospice care (in place of much more expensive hospital care) and counseling. At least I sincerely hope so.

If Catholics and Baptists want to forgo abortions, let them. If Jehovah's Witnesses want to forgo blood transfusions and other organ transplants, let them. If Mormons want to forgo beer and coffee, let them. If Muslims want to forgo wine and pork, let them. If Orthodox Jews want to forgo clam and lobster, let them. But let them not impose their religious taboos on me and other Americans.

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