Along with unemployment and the economic turmoil currently afflicting our society, health care reform is a major issue challenging us now and for years to come.
The recently enacted health care bill (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed on March 23, 2010, and amended on March 30, 2010), runs for 2,700 pages. Some 10,000 pages of regulations pertaining to the act are expected to follow. It is anticipated in some quarters that not much new money will be involved but rather that current health care costs and revenue in the health care field will be redirected.
At the same time, the United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the physician supply will increase by only 7 percent in the next 10 years. In the same time period, the Census Bureau projects a 36 percent growth in the number of Americans over age 65, the very segment of the population with the greatest health care needs.
I am using information supplied by the Association of American Medical Colleges for this report. According to its data, by 2020 the United States will face a serious shortage of both primary-care and specialist physicians to serve an aging and growing population. The association indicates that there will be 45,000 too few primary-care physicians and a shortage of 46,000 surgeons and medical specialists in the next decade.
While there may be a need to adjust numbers in some instances, there is no question that older patients are sicker and have multiple chronic conditions that require more time and coordination.
Ominous clouds loom on the horizon, and more ominous directions are arriving: euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Two states in the United States have enacted assisted suicide legislation: Oregon and Washington.
In the European Union, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg have legalized euthanasia. Switzerland and Estonia allow physician-assisted suicide, and the Netherlands permits physician- assisted suicide and pediatric euthanasia. “The empirical problems encountered in all these places range from medical complications and the underreporting of deaths (about 50 percent) to involuntary euthanasia (more than 1,000 cases a year)” (Ashley Fernandez, M.D., “The Loss of Dignity at the End of Life.” The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Autumn 2010).
These developments are more acute than ominous clouds.
It is encouraging to note, however, that every state in the United States where assisted suicide has recently been raised, the matter has been defeated. New Hampshire defeated it in November 2009. There is no question about our need to remain vigilant and active on the issue here in Connecticut as well as elsewhere.
Technology is increasing by the minute in our society. It is now estimated that there are 86 cell phones in our country for every 100 people.
Technology is a boon for the world. It can also, as we well know, be horribly destructive. A good example of its positive impact took place in the recent rescue of the 33 miners from San Jose Mine in Copiapo, Chile. Trapped for 69 to 70 days, they were saved through advances in technology, the good will of the people providing it, and many prayers.
The work in Chile was supplemented by the Center Rock drill from the United States, the fiber optic communication cable from Japan, the cell phone with its own projector from South Korea, and the big wheel cable from Germany. Beautiful examples rose before us of effective technology provided by people of enlightened generosity.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 614, reminds us that it is the heart that is the source of prayer. More than 1,000 times, the heart is mentioned in Sacred Scripture. In this month of Thanksgiving, our heart expresses the gratitude that is at the center of our love for God. Our heart lifts up as well the appreciation we treasure for all who have gone before us and for all with whom we share our world today.
May our hearts, in God’s love, continue to be the power that develops our technology and reveals new skies immune from the ominous clouds that attempt to eclipse the sun in our world. Happy Thanksgiving!
Archbishop’s Annual Appeal 2010
Your hearts continue to bring edifying illumination to our Church and our world. The current total of the 2010 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, with two months to go, is $9,061,720, which is $72,603 below the total last year at this time. Given all of the challenges facing us, those numbers are wonderful testimony of your generosity and effective work. You teach the meaning of Thanksgiving beautifully. I am enormously grateful for your ongoing pattern of assisting people in need and of making for a better world.