Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Medical Treatment Should Never Be About Popularity

In recent weeks, the shrieking out of the right wingnuts over the idea of the US government actually implementing a meaningful taxpayer funded medical system has been alternating between stupid and funny.

Until two of the loonier members of America's right wing - Matt Barber and Peter LaBarbera decided to weigh in.

I could give their joint idiocy a detailed analysis - but it boils down to one fundamental point that is worth addressing.

Both men seem to have a problem with the idea that providing treatment to transsexuals shouldn't be done. In fact, I'd go so far as to argue that they don't merely argue against treatment funded by taxpayers, but in fact both argue against any kind of meaningful treatment.

And yes, the idea of subsidizing body-disfiguring “operations” surely would be considered “queer” by the average tax-paying American.

“Gender Identity Disorder” (GID) may also be provided – free of charge – courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. The current price tag for such a procedure can exceed $50,000.

This falls into the classic trap of making access to needed medical treatment conditional upon the "charisma" of the condition, instead of talking about the best interests of the patient. Transsexuality will never be a "charismatic" condition - it's far enough from so many people's understanding that it seems unlikely to ever have "popular support".

However, using that kind of approach for one treatment means it can be used for others. Let me illustrate. In the last thirty years or so smoking has become quite the social evil. Smoking has two well known consequences - emphysema and lung cancer. Can you imagine having either of these conditions, and finding that your access to treatment is based suddenly on how much public sympathy there is for ex-smokers with emphysema?

That is essentially what many people are arguing when they make statements like "I don't think my tax dollars should pay for that".

Access to medical treatment - when medically necessary - should never be conditional on public opinion. This is as true in Canada as elsewhere. Using minority populations as political footballs is despicable, bordering on criminal.

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