The nation’s largest representative of registered nurses today expressed revulsion at the cheering by some audience members in the CNN-Tea Party Republican debate Monday night at the prospect of letting a sick person die just because they do not have health insurance.
Prompting the outburst was a question from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to Rep. Ron Paul about whether medical care should be provided to a hypothetical, uninsured 30-year-old man who lapsed into a coma, to which Paul responded, “that’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks.” When Blitzer then asked, “Are you saying that society should just let him die?” a number of audience members erupted into loud cheers of “Yeah!” and laughter.
National Nurses United said the gruesome reaction from many in the audience is a reminder of the growing collapse of civil society in America, and the need for more humane policies. One such step would be to expand Medicare to cover all Americans so that no one has to be in danger of losing their life because they are uninsured.
Nor is it an academic question. Nearly 45,000 deaths in the U.S. every year are associated with lack of health insurance, according to a study this year by Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance published by the American Journal of Public Health.
“It was stunning. My first reaction is how far have we degenerated as a society?” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN who said she was watching the debate.
Ross called the reaction antithetical to the very essence of nursing. “Everything we do is geared toward preventing illness, and getting people well. If no one cares whether our patients get well, what are we doing advocating for them and fighting for them?”
A broader question, says NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro, is “one of national identity: Do we have — or even want — a country, a nation of common purpose and support — or just a collection of amoral individuals?”
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