Some years ago, Bob was diagnosed with cancer of the colon. His treatment would have been lengthy, costly, and rough. Rather than spend the nest egg he had accumulated through a lifetime of hard work, Bob decided to take his own life. He spent his final week saying his last goodbyes to his friends. In an email to me, he wrote:
My death is neither based on courage, nor cowardice. It is the logical conclusion of a rational mind based upon my values and circumstances. This is right for me, but that is my intellect, not my emotions. No, I am not brave, as I have been an emotional wreck all week since everything I do, and see, is for the last time. Cutting my ties to this world is not easy. However, my life belongs to me, not the doctors, preachers, or government, all of whom forbid my action.
I thought of Bob during a conversation I was having in The Young Turks' live chat, where we were discussing health care issues and a man who lost his job at Wells Fargo, and therefore his insurance, right before his child's scheduled surgery. It was a heartbreaking story. I thought about my own experiences with the health care system, then reflected on my dad, who had insurance but had doctors blow off his pain as the result of a fall down the stairs. I thought about my Aunt Pam, who could not afford to go to the doctor because her employer did not provide insurance, who waited until the pain was so great that she had to go to the emergency room, only to find that her cancer had spread to her whole body. She died not long after.
Then I thought of Bob. It's the first time I'd ever made the connection, but Bob's death could have been prevented if we had universal health care--health care that would not have eaten up his nest egg. I can't speak for Bob; he may have still gone through with the suicide to avoid having his family watch him suffer--or he may have gone through with treatment and put his cancer into remission. Or, if his cancer was terminal, he may have decided to use hospice care. In whatever circumstance, I think he should have had the choice.