Wouldn’t you love to live a simple life? I sure would. I wish my life — life in general for that matter — was complicated only by mundane decisions that carried only minimal consequences. What should we have for dinner this evening? What should we watch on television?
But life isn’t simple at all. Even “paper or plastic” had ramifications beyond the check-out line.
There was a very tough decision made recently that got me thinking about complexity and consequences in life and also made me grateful that, on the simplicity scale, my life is a 10.
A little girl is dying, and can only be saved by a lung transplant. Sarah Murnaghan is only 10 and has cystic fibrosis. There are three other children at the same hospital in the same condition. Nationwide, there are 31.
Transplant policy is set by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Without it, there would be a free market in human organs. (There already is in some parts of the world.)
The O.P.T.N. has two waiting lists for donor lungs, one for children and one for adults. It’s not an arbitrary policy. Lung transplants are the most difficult transplants to perform, and adults do better than children. So children who need a transplant have to wait for a “pediatric donor.” They have to wait for another child to die.
Understandably, Sarah’s parents are doing everything in their power to save their child, even convincing a Congressional committee to hold a hearing. At that hearing, the Health and Human Services Secretary refused to intervene.
So the parents went to federal court, and persuaded the judge to order the O.P.T.N. to put Sarah on both the pediatric and adult waiting lists.
I’m really glad I wasn’t the one to make that decision, but I still think it was a bad one. If you were the parent of one of the other 30 children waiting for donor lungs, wouldn’t you be in court the next day? If there were no nationwide policy for organ donations and transplants, would your child die because you aren’t rich or influential enough, or you live in the wrong state?
Of course, this raises the broader issue of health care in general in our country. It’s too expensive, too arbitrary, and too complicated. Those who can afford it, or have adequate insurance, get the best care in the world. Those who don’t, in some cases, die. Many others end up bankrupt.
I am fortunate to have just two pretty simple decisions to make on health care — which of the three plans my company offers do I enroll in and who do I vote for?
The plan I chose has a high deductible, but protects me from a catastrophic health crisis that would leave me broke. When I vote, if the candidates have a stance on the issue, my vote always goes to the candidate who agrees with me that in the richest, most powerful country in the history of the world, adequate health care is a right, not a privilege.