Charges, coroners’ findings, an exciting new study, & a new senator’s health-care impact
1) I wrote about them yesterday, ten Americans claiming to just be “missionaries” but suspected of child trafficking, caught attempting to transport roughly 30 Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic in the chaotic aftermath of the recent earthquake in Haiti. Well, Haitian authorities have now charged all ten with conspiracy and child abduction.
2) ”Motivational speaker” James Arthur Ray has been charged with manslaughter after three participants in a “therapeutic” “sweat-lodge” (think of a sauna x 10) retreat conducted by Ray died last year. The victims reportedly were overcome by extreme heat, and Ray reportedly did nothing to help them get out of the “sweat lodge.”
(Still no word on charges being filed against Michael Jackson‘s doctor. We keep hearing “any minute now,” but we’ve been hearing that for weeks.)
They were two young women living the high life in Hollywood, both dying recently in the prime of their lives. Was foul-play involved? Not according to coroners’ findings just released in both cases:
1) Actress Brittany Murphy died from cardiac arrest brought on by a combination of pneumonia and intoxication.
2) Heiress Casey Johnson died from complications of her diabetes.
Some patients thought to have been completely unconscious for years apparently have not been. Imagine that, being aware of what was going on around you but unable to let anyone know for years. One has to wonder what mental state a person would be in after years of that. At least now these rare patients may have hope of communicating with the outside world again even if they never regain control of their bodies. In scanning the brain waves of patients believed to be completely comatose, looking for any signs activity, it was discovered that a few of them could actually alter their brain waves in response to questions (e.g. think about one thing as a “yes” response and about something else as a “no” response, such that the scanner could detect the difference).
With the swearing-in of new Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown this afternoon, the drastic changes to the American health care system proposed in the past year are highly unlikely to become law, and as you know if you read regularly, I think that’s a good thing. The system’s not perfect, but more government involvement in it, I believe, would’ve made it worse, not better. It sounds good to “guarantee” certain things, like food, shelter, and health care, to everyone, but whenever governments try to do that, they run up against the reality of human nature. There’s always going to be a small minority of people in a society who simply can’t pull their own weight (i.e. can’t provide for their own basic needs). So, in order to run the society efficiently and effectively, you need everyone who can pull his/her own weight to do so. Then, you need some, hopefully many, people to pull more than their own weight, because that’s where you get excess, wealth, that can be used to help the truly helpless. But how do you motivate every capable person to pull at least his/her own weight and hopefully more? You may not like this answer, but fear is one of the primary and strongest motivators of human behavior. Most people work and educate themselves and acquire skills and work some more in large part — subconsciously perhaps, but nevertheless in large part — because they fear what would happen to them (and to those who depend on them, e.g. their children), if they didn’t. That fear is actually a good thing. When you guarantee everyone that their basic needs will be met, you take away the fear, and you end up with capable people not pulling their weight, by choice rather than inability, and you start to get a burden of “need” that’s heavier and heavier and eventually difficult for the remaining, productive members of your society to bear. Of course I want everyone to be healthy and to have access to care when they need it. But I don’t want to promise it to them from birth. I want them to wonder where it would come from if they don’t procure it for themselves. And if they haven’t procured it for themselves and need it, I want them to have to explain to somebody why they need it and to appeal to that person or agency for help rather than being able to count on simply filling out a government form and having the help handed to them unconditionally. In a sense, when you say to some people, “Have no fear,” you’re unintentionally, subconsciously, but effectively saying “have no motivation.” Not having guarantees, allowing there to be some fear, incentivizes those who are able to pull their own weight (and more) to do so, and when they do, the group that truly can’t is small enough that voluntary assistance is more than adequate to meet their needs, especially in a society as generous as ours. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things that the government can do to help make health care more affordable and accessible to people without mandating or guaranteeing or directly providing coverage/care — things like allowing people to purchase health insurance from companies across the country instead of just the ones operating in their home states — and if you’re interested in those, I wrote about them numerous times during 2008 in the run-up to the presidential election.
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