The Criminal Cost of Healthcare
by Natalie Perlov on Friday, September 19th, 2014
Over the summer, I interned for my uncle at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, observing many cutting-edge medical procedures like gamma-knife neurosurgery. This fascinating, non-invasive medical procedure allows patients with brain maladies to receive radiation on the problem areas without much risk to the healthy surrounding areas. One of the patients receiving the surgery was actually a maximum-security prisoner—complete with orange jumpsuit, security guards, the whole nine yards—with a benign tumor (one that was not growing). My uncle explained to me that the state is obligated to provide complementary medical care for prisoners, meaning that this criminal, who was in minimal danger, was receiving the best medical care free of charge. In contrast, after we saw how pharmaceutical chemotherapy drugs were produced, my uncle told me that many times, the families of children with malignant tumors cannot afford the expensive interleukin-2 chemotherapy. This fact probes question: should prisoners be allowed the best care the state can provide, or do law-abiding citizens deserve more support from the government than criminals? In my opinion, a prisoner’s access to quality medical care should hinge on not only his medical standing, but also the severity of his crime. In addition, the government should not place importance over prisoners who are not terminally sick above severely sick children.
The criminal in need of gamma-knife neurosurgery should not have been allowed medical care. He had a benign brain tumor that slightly impaired his ability to see. His condition was not life threatening, rendering medical intervention unjustified. If the prisoner had brain cancer, however, medical intervention would be a priority. The availability of medical care should depend on the severity of a prisoner’s condition; if surgery can save someone’s life, that procedure should be performed. If the prisoner is not very sick; however, the money should be used on another individual who has the opportunity to aid society once healed.
The severity of the prisoner’s crime should also determine whether he or she receives medical care. For example, a violent crime such as murder or rape does not deserve free healthcare. Criminals who violate others’ rights out of premeditated malice do not deserve to be treated with better care than law-abiding citizens, particularly innocent children. However, if a prisoner’s crime is non-violent, and her situation is dire, gratis medical attention should be provided.
In the event that the government must decide between a child with a malignant tumor who cannot afford treatment and a prisoner with a benign tumor, it should choose the one with the more dangerous disease as well as the one who can provide more for society. With the recent implementation of Obamacare, families are fortunately one step closer to being able to afford expensive medical bills, but the government must still place priority on those who have not committed crimes and on those whose situations are most severe.
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