When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, there were several versions before the familiar, final one. However, one phrase was included in them all: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.”
This is the reason the Colonies broke British Rule. These rights are the reason for the revolutionary war, and the Declaration specifically states the only reason for government is to ensure these rights. Yet, when it comes to healthcare, these rights are denied American citizens.
Each year the lack of proper health insurance kills more than 45,000 citizens. They are denied their unalienable right to life. Additionally, the Declaration clearly states it is the government’s job to “secure these rights.” Lack of universal healthcare is in contradiction to the very Declaration upon which our country was formed.
Each year, tens of thousands of citizens are imprisoned in their homes because health insurance will not cover medication, durable medical equipment, or medical treatments. They are deprived of their liberty, and the system is, again, in violation of our founding doctrine.
As for pursuing happiness, well, those deprived of health and liberty are unable to pursue happiness. The lack of appropriate, available, health coverage and care violates all of the most important rights guaranteed by the Founding Fathers under the U.S. Declarations of Independence.
These violations do not stop at the Declaration of Independence, but extend to the Constitution of the United States as well.
In 1787, the US Constitution was written and ratified. The Preamble, generally considered our country’s most important set of legal guidelines, states, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
What makes this important is the date the Constitution was written. In the 18th Century, the word “welfare,” was specifically used in relation to the physical health of a person or group. So, when the founders used the term “promote the general welfare,” they specifically named healthcare for all citizens.
In 2017, 45,000 working, adult Americans died due to lack of insurance coverage. Uninsured adults were 40 percent more likely to die than the insured. Statistically, this means the ongoing lack of health coverage in the United States kills more American citizens than kidney disease.
Each year 17,000 children die due to lack of insurance. How is it, the United States can expound the right to life while tens of thousands die in our streets? It is unconscionable and unacceptable. It flies in the face of the nation’s founding guidelines.
We, as Americans, need to demand better of our leaders and our country.
We have some of the best hospitals and health professionals in the world. They are masters of their arts, wielding medicine and scalpel with almost magical skill. But like a magician’s audience, many of our citizens are mere spectators, wishing to be part of the act. Wishing to be part of the magic but only able to watch.
Nobody should die because they have no coverage. No parent should choose between feeding a child and getting medicine for that child. No American Citizen should be denied their unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness by the very government charged with ensuring those rights are protected.
It is the duty of the federal government to ensure the safety and treatment of all citizens. To do otherwise is an act of dehumanization, stating the individual is less of a person due to lack of insurance. It is a statement that the government does not find that person worthy of living.
It is murder by omission.
Failure to have full and free health care and prescription care for all citizens is not only against the founding concepts laid out in our Declaration of Independence and solidified in the Constitution, it is simply un-American.
Dr. Friedmann is an assistant professor of exercise science at Indiana State University.