The Medicalization of America
Dr. Payne is Associate Professor at the Medical College of Georgia. He is author of Biblical/Medical Ethics, Making Biblical Decisions, and What Every Christian Should Know about the AIDS Epidemic.
Everyone today seems to want maximal health care. Christians, humanists, conservatives, and liberals argue that every American should not only have access to health care, but the best medical care. Because of this sentiment, national health insurance would already exist if politicians could only figure out how to pay for it.
However, medical care is one of the major means whereby Americans are being further enslaved to the state. Further, no matter what method or how much money the state spends, health care will not be achieved.
A Brief Digression In Philosophy, Ethics And Law
Too many Christians in the United States believe that politics is an a-moral endeavor; that it is wrong to try to apply Biblical principles as laws for society. But, to maintain this position they must contend against this simple argument. Politics and legislation are inevitably based upon some principle of right and wrong, i.e., ethics. Is it right to limit highway speeds to 65 miles per hour or not? Is it right to allow physicians to abort unborn babies or not?
Having said that, whose ethics will be enacted into law? The Supreme Court has said that the Ten Commandments will not be taught in public schools, and by implication and application, will not become law. So, what ethics are left — only some godless humanism that is applied at the whim of voters, politicians, and judges. And Christians accept this situation!
My question to them is, “How can right and wrong be determined apart from God’s ways?” The answer is, “It can’t.” Until Christians en masse come to understand this simple relationship of societal law and religion (humanism is a religion), there will be no improvement in either the quality of life or the morality of the American people.
American Medicine: Solutions Of Disease And Death
“The wages of sin is death.”
“All them who hate me love death.”
In light of these verses and other teachings of Scripture, what is the humanist solution for unwanted pregnancy? The death of the unborn baby. What is the solution for those with chronic and incurable illnesses? Lethal injection. What is the solution to the AIDS epidemic? “Safe sex.” (That is, risky sex that leads to more infections of all sexually transmitted diseases.)
Beyond these “death solutions,” why do people smoke cigarettes? Drink alcohol to excess? Engage in risky sexual behavior? Eat too much? Use IV drugs? Medical experts and psychologists say that addictions cause people to behave in these ways.
America is being medicalized. More and more problems facing both individuals and society are being “medicalized.” That is, they are being given either a medical or psychological “diagnosis.” And — far too many Christians are following this pattern. “So what?” you ask. Just this.
First, the question must be asked, “Does God know more about behavior than man?” God says that drunkenness is a sin (I Corinthians 6:10; Ephesians 5:18), that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is sin (Exodus 20:14), that homosexuality is sin (I Corinthians 6:9), and many other behaviors are sins (I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21).
You see, if these problems are medical or “psychological,” then the afflicted person needs a physician or psychologist, not the Great Physician. One of the great doctrines of orthodox theology is that the body (as physical matter and as God’s creation) is “very good” (Genesis 1:31). To place these immoral (sinful) behaviors in the category of physical causation contradicts that teaching.
The worse effect is that the afflicted person will be deluded as to what his real need is: Jesus Christ and obedience to Him, not the escape of his or her conscience into physical causation with the remedy in humanistic counsel and/or in a pill.
The second major effect of the re-classification of sins into medical/psychological problems is the economic cost. Insurance is based upon pooled risk. For insurance programs to work, they must be actuarially sound. That is, the risk that is being insured against must be rare enough that a sufficient equity can be built into a fund to pay for a calamity when it comes and pay the administrative costs to run the program.
With behavioral problems being increasingly diagnosed as medical problems and states mandating that virtually any self-destructive behavior be insured by private agencies, then the risk being insured approaches 100 percent in any individual.
No wonder the cost of medical insurance is so high! Collection on a medical insurance policy is no longer a chance possibility, but a virtual certainty. It has become a return-on-investment program that carries the higher administrative costs of a greater number of claims on top of the claims themselves — a very expensive endeavor. And – everyone wants to be sure that they collect their “fair share.”
In addition to this huge private cost is that of government programs, primarily Medicare and Medicaid. Soon, if it has not occurred already, more will be spent by the federal government on medical care than on national defense! In addition, the largest taxation on the American people is now Social Security, a very large share of which goes to pay for Medicare.
Thus, all medical care in the United States now consumes almost 13 percent of the Gross National Product — far more than a tithe towards the care of a dying entity, the human body.
The third major effect of medicalization is that every government program and legislation is backed by the full power and enforcement of the state and federal governments. After about 10 years of Medicare, the federal government saw that they could not afford to pay for the services being provided for the program’s recipients. So, they have increasingly regulated what physicians can and cannot do.
When their laws are not followed, physicians can be fined and even imprisoned, often without a jury trial. That is, physicians are presumed guilty and must prove their innocence.
From the patient’s side, physicians can “report” under child and spouse statutes the possibility of such abuse and be free of any civil or criminal liability. In this case, the patient and his family are guilty until proven innocent.
And — so it goes. Medicine is a primary means whereby spiritual problems (sins) need medicine as their savior. Since these problems originate in the depths of man’s depravity, their cost exceeds all available resources. As the state increases the care of its citizens from cradle to grave (not womb to tomb, as the state does not protect the child in the womb), it increases its police state surveillance and enforcement.
The irony of modern medicine gone awry is that it promises what it cannot deliver, i.e., health. All in all, American medicine does more harm than good. While I cannot digress to prove that point here, one only needs to look at abortion, the management of the AIDS epidemic, the specter of euthanasia to understand that American medicine is anything but “health-promoting.”
From a Romans 1 perspective, this bad situation is understandable. What boggles my mind is the number of Christians who accept most, if not all, of this situation as what ought to be. Some even call the government’s stranglehold on medicine “charity.”
The realities are these. Sins can never be healed on a physical basis. Greater disease, disability, and death is all that humanism has to offer. There is not enough money in existence to pay for all the effects of self-abuse that are possible. Medicine is already socialized and a means by which the government is decreasing the freedom of individuals and families, as it increases its own police state.
Those Christians that think I exaggerate are blind to any Biblical understanding of the medical situation in the United States. Until some significant numbers of Christians and their leaders understand the above and the Biblical solutions that apply, American medicine will continue to be the agent whereby it accomplishes the very opposite of what it intends. The cost in souls, money, and freedom will be exceedingly great!