US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Even scarier: the untreated epidemic?

Kevin Clarke | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

A member of the Claretian's Holy Cross Parish in Chicago's "back of the yards" community, Caitlin Huber was a young mother of 2, just 20, when she died of  complications arising from the H1N1 flu virus. She became the state's fourth "swine flu" victim. She had been admitted to hospital just a week before her death. Her second child was delivered three months prematurely by caesarian section after she fell into a coma last Saturday.

"It is an unbelievable. Who would expect a child at 20 to die of a flu?" Vickie Treat, Caitlin's mother told reporters.

Reading Caitlin's story was heartbreaking and shocking. Even more alarming was the following post I stumbled across at the bottom of the news item:

<<The last patient to be confirmed w/ swine flu was me on 6/2/09. I was
discharged yesterday even though I'm not over it. I have respiratory
& cardiac conditions. However, isolation costs money & I only
had Medicare. I had surgery last Friday also. Now I'm free to spread
this. Be aware & be scred Chicagoans. The IDPH & hospitals are
not protecting us!!!>>

If this person is testifying honestly to their experience, here's hoping they have fully recovered by now. What we all know for sure, however, is that our national health system is far from recovered. Sadly, the ongoing failure of our system to provide health care to all U.S. citizens makes this post completely credible.

Those of us who cannot be persuaded by the moral argument—that adequate health care is a human right pertaining to human dignity, one that cannot be denied in a truly civilized society—may find the ominous possibilities raised by this post more convincing about the utilitarian benefits of universal health coverage of some kind.

The devastating potential of the H1NI flu epidemic we may face in the near future will certainly be influenced by a previous epidemic we as a culture have for decades put off treating: the rationing of health care based not on need but on the ability to pay. It has been claiming lives for decades (as many as 18k per year by an Institute of Medicine study), but those of us lulled into complacency by our company plans (that is, until we are laid off or read the fine print: see "lifetime limits") have elected in every way to ignore this as someone else's problem. 

If it is true that seriously ill vicitms of the H1N1 virus (or any other dangerous virus) are being routinely returned to the streets because of lack of health coverage, no plan in the world is going to protect us from the outcome of that epidemic of indifference, short-sightedness, and stupidity.