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Compassion alone isn’t enough

By Sean Trapani Savannah Morning News Around 3 a.m. last night, a physician was attacked by a group of armed men in the parking lot of a Savannah hospital. The men seized the doctor by her lapel and forced her to give medical treatment to a member of their “gang.” Before they left, they stole money from the doctor’s wallet – money she had saved for paying back her six-digit student loan. As they were leaving, they told her that they would be back. Shivering in fear, Sarah called for help. But when the police arrived, they told her that there was nothing they could do. Outraged, she called the courts. She called her local elected officials. Their responses were all the same. What’s the big deal? The big deal is this. This scenario is playing out right now. In Washington, congressional Democrats and President Obama are talking about “rescuing” health care legislation. They will talk about their compassion for people who cannot afford health care. And they will paint anyone who disagrees with them as a heartless obstructionist. To them I say, we applaud your compassion. It speaks volumes about your love for others. It speaks volumes about your heart and its desire for charity. But as we say here in the South, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Compassion is when you spend your own money. Spending someone else’s money is called theft. More to the point, when we suggest that someone has the “right” to health care, we are ignoring the implications of that statement. To say that we have the right to health care really means that we have the right to take possession of someone else’s body. After all, it’s people who tend to others. Not vending machines. My friends, who are far more learned than I, put it this way: You cannot assert a right by taking away someone else’s rights. If you say, I have a right to health care, what you’re really saying is, “I have the right to seize control of doctors, nurses and lab techs and tell them what to do, when to do it and how to do it.” We have a name for this kind of relationship, and it’s an ugly one. When put in this context, we can see that this good intention being spoken about in Washington actually conceals a darker deed. Those who endorse this legislation often put their fingers over their ears and call people who disagree with them monsters or political opportunists. But are they really? Compassion is a wonderful thing. If you strongly believe in this legislation, I hope you’ve been donating an extra 10 percent of your net income to hospitals for several years. That’s admirable. But that is your choice. True compassion means caring not only about a physician’s patients, but the physician, too – the doctor who was seized by force (the law), robbed of the rewards of her own work (taxation) and left naked by a system that not only turned its back on her, but took possession of her. We do not have the right to seize power over one individual and force them to help another. That is not the role of the federal government. It is not the role of our president. And at its heart, it is, perhaps, the least compassionate thing any individual could do. Sean Trapani lives and writes in Savannah.

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