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    Summer break is the perfect opportunity to get back into reading. Adam Silvera’s (2017) novel, They Both Die at the End, can serve as a stepping stone into the realm of reading. The pace is fast, action-packed, and develops loveable characters. Also, Silvera switches point of view each chapter where narration mainly focuses on the protagonists, […]
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    If there’s one book that I believe everyone should read once in their life, it’s my favorite book – Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. From my course, Queer Literature under Dr. Bill Albertini, I discovered Emezi’s Freshwater (2018). Once more, my course, Creative Writing Thesis Workshop under Professor Amorak Huey, was instructed to present our favorite […]

Question of right or responsibility of health care important to ponder

In the turmoil leading up to the American Revolution, my great-times-eleven grandfather Patrick Henry said, ‘Give me Liberty, or give me Death!’ Before I continue, I should probably add two things: Patrick was trying to persuade delegates at the Virginia Convention to support a war against the control of Britain’s King George III and, unfortunately, he and I are not related (I hope that does not take away any of my credibility in quoting him).

To make a long story short, we started the war, we won the war and after a short interim period where our Founding Fathers lapsed into a Paris Hilton-esque thought process (also known as the Articles of the Confederation era), we wrote a spanking new document that gave us a framework, a few branches and a whole list of liberties.

I am, of course, referring to the Constitution and its ensuing Bill of Rights. Freshly relinquished from England’s tyrannical grasp, the authors of the Constitution took care to include nearly every legal and political right that they had previously been denied. That is why we have amendments that today seem a little peculiar; for example, the Third Amendment allows us to decline hosting a horde of soldiers in our home.

The Constitution has excelled superbly at being a ‘living document’ – being applicable to modern situations even though it is more than two centuries old. But now, both conservatives and liberals should agree that modern society has a new set of problems with which our ancestors never dealt. It is here that we come to the recent great debate: government-sponsored health care.

Don’t worry; I am not here to grandstand about being for or against President Obama’s health care initiative. (That is another argument for another day.) Instead, I pose another question: Is health care a right or a responsibility?

Given the current hype about the rising numbers of overweight citizens, many people may be inclined to say health care is something for which each individual American is responsible. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 49 of 50 states have obesity rates higher than 20 percent.

It has been proven that obesity can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and heart attack. In the same vein, people who chose to smoke do so knowing full well of their elevated susceptibility for cancer and lung disease. Why should the public be forced to pay for the medical treatments of these individuals who knowingly cause harm to their own bodies?

However, it is also imperative to remember the seemingly infinite number of diseases and accidents that happen to even the most physically healthy Americans. Should the African-American community be left to fend for themselves just because they are genetically predisposed to hypertension? Additionally, health care proponents argue that public funding for preventative screenings for ailments like colon and breast cancer is much more cost-effective than paying for expensive treatments when the diagnosis is often too late.

Yet, even if health care is a basic right, why was it was never mentioned by the Founding Fathers? Thomas Jefferson mentioned life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as rights in the Declaration of Independence, but I think ‘life’ and ‘happiness’ served as political phrases meant to excite revolutionaries rather than metaphors for medical care.

Consider this: In the 1700s, death, especially at a young age, was much more common. Physicians were poorly trained, sterilization was weak at best and we barely even knew how germs worked. Most importantly, our ancestors accepted – and many were comfortable with – their own mortality. Then, around the early-to-middle part of the 20th century, our mindset started to change. Vaccinations became more prevalent (thanks, Dr. Salk!), scientific technology improved and medical procedures became safer and more commonplace.

With a slew of wars underneath our belt and Communism held somewhat at bay, the United States was no longer troubled by the battles of the past. We had the time and the political calm to focus on the new evils that plagued our nation; namely, injury and illness.

With the increased attention to treatment of medical problems came the public’s overwhelming expectation of doctors and their ability to cure. Longevity was no longer a lucky occurrence; it was an entitlement.

This leads us to today. Now that we are, for the most part, beyond the days of political injustices, what else is included in the constitutional ideas of ‘common defense’ and ‘general welfare?’ Is the government responsible to defend us from viruses and bacteria? Does it benefit the general welfare to require all Americans to have health insurance and consistent medical checks?

These are the questions our country needs to be asking as we delve into the mess of coordinating universal health care. My tentative proposal is that some sort of very basic coverage be a right, just as the Sixth Amendment guarantees all convicted citizens the right to a public defender.

Then, it would be the responsibility of the patient to choose if he wants extended care or a different physician, just as someone can elect for alternative legal counsel. This is an extremely simplified example, but the Constitution is known for being concise. Read it (all four pages), then decide. There is a reason why the Constitution was nicknamed ‘the bundle of all compromises.’ It has served us well so far – this time should be no different.

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