Gambling with healthcare is betting one’s life

By Harrison Searles

Josh Kellogg/Collegian

During the Tea Party Republican debate last week on CNN, Ron Paul made a stir with an answer he gave to Wolf Blitzer about a man without insurance who needed medical treatment that he would not be able to afford. After being asked whether a 30-year old man who did not buy health insurance, thinking he was healthy enough not to need it should be turned away from the hospital, Ron Paul answered that the man should have been responsible and bought a major medical policy, following that with assurance that charity would help those that were in need without any need for a government-program. Of course, many were not happy with this, but when we look at the morality of the situation it is clear that Ron Paul’s advocacy of responsibility is sound.


The man in the question was someone who had consciously chosen to not buy health insurance and instead allocate his limited income towards the acquisition of other goods. As all do when planning for the future, he took a risk by expecting not to have to make a large healthcare expenditure in the future. However, it turned out that he was wrong and is now facing expenditures that he did not plan for.

Mistakes of this type happen all the time in society with other goods like home-owners’ insurance. All the time people choose to take risks, betting on certain outcomes in the future. If they work out, no one really pays attention, but if they fail they can bring on all sorts of unfortunate consequences. However, whenever someone’s basement gets flooded and he cannot afford to get it repaired, people do not forget that it was that person’s free decision not to protect himself against such events. Rather than saying it is unfair that he is left with a flooded basement, the unfortunate homeowner is told that he should have been responsible and bought insurance. It is strange then how when it is the man about to die due to his own negligence that the stark necessity of responsibility is forgotten in favor for a mess of an argument.

In the topsy-turvy world of analyzing one of the worse-case scenarios of healthcare, the virtue of responsibility is forgotten and instead doctors become the serfs of those who could not be bothered to take care for themselves. Rather than starting with the all-important premise that each person is the ultimate preserver of their life and that it is their moral obligation to pursue their own well-being, those angered by Ron Paul’s statement start with the premise that it would be murder to do anything other than care for the man. For one thing, this leaves out the important distinction between letting someone die and killing them, and the uncomfortable questions that result from that.

By far, though, the most awful conclusion that can be derived from that premise is that it results in the medical profession being turned into slaves at the beckoning of the sick. This is so because if doctors murder each and every near-death person that they do not attend to, then the doctor is no longer a free individual. Rather, he becomes a serf who is not free to practice his profession as he wants. Instead of deciding which patients he will seek, he has to treat whomever someone else decides is worthy for his attention; otherwise, if he abstained from treating that patient, it would be like he was committing murder. Is the doctor a slave to the will of others or is he responsible for his own actions? If he is responsible for his own actions, then he is free to throw out the man? If he is not free to throw out the man, then for all intents and purposes the doctor is the man’s slave. Since the entire concept that a person’s will could be controlled by another is absurd, it follows that we must accept the former over the latter and uphold the doctor’s right not to provide care to the man.

Overall, Ron Paul is correct in placing the blame of the man’s situation on his own actions for the simple fact that he did not take the actions that were clearly open for him to prevent such a scenario. He bet his life and lost. Furthermore, to make it compulsory for doctors to treat him would be an assault upon their moral freedom and would result in a repugnant situation where patients enslave their doctors.

Harrison Searles is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]