The debate -- OK, the shouting match -- we are having over "health-care reform" is about many things, including cost, who gets help and who does not and who, or what, gets to make that determination. Underlying it all is a larger question: Is human life something special? Is it to be valued more highly than, say, plants and pets? When someone is in a "persistent vegetative state" do we mean to say that person is equal in value to a carrot?
Are we now assigning worth to human life, or does it arrive with its own pre-determined value, irrespective of race, class, IQ, or disability?
The bottom line is not the bottom line. It is something far more profound. Our decisions regarding who will get help and who won't are about more than bean-counting bureaucrats deciding if your drugs or operation will cost more than you are contributing to the U.S. Treasury.
The secular left claims we are evolutionary accidents who managed to crawl out of the slime and by "natural selection" stand erect and over millions of years outsmart our ancestors, the apes. If that is your belief, then you probably think health care should be rationed. Why spend lots of money to improve -- or save -- the life of someone who evolved from slime and has no special significance other than the "accident" of becoming human? Policies flow from such a philosophy, though the average secularist probably wouldn't put it in such stark terms. Stark, or not, isn't this the inevitable progression of seeing humanity as maybe complex, but nothing special?
The opposing view sees human beings as unique creations. Even Thomas Jefferson, identified by historians as a Deist who doubted the existence of a personal God, understood that if certain rights (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) do not come from a source beyond the reach of the state, then the state could take those rights away. Those who believe that God made us and also makes the rules about our existence and our behavior will have a completely different understanding of life's value and our approach to affirming it until natural death.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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