Editorial: Punishing the patient

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ordinarily, it’s best to ignore benighted ideas from extremes of the left or right.
However, state Rep. Larry Brown, a Kernersville Republican, has proposed a cost-cutting measure that we can’t let pass without comment. You may recall that Brown, who was re-elected without opposition last fall, previously had stirred the pot with anti-gay slurs that included using the words “fruitloops” and “queers” in an e-mail sent to his colleagues.
Now, he’s made it clear he intends to make bigotry part of the Republican Party’s legislative agenda. In an interview with the Winston-Salem Journal, he said one of his legislative priorities this year will be to eliminate state funding for AIDS and HIV treatments for adults who are living a “perverted lifestyle.”
Let’s set aside, for the moment, the fact that about half of all new HIV/AIDS cases involve people who are not gay but contract the illness through heterosexual activity or drug use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Let’s set aside any quaint notions you might have about human compassion toward the sick and suffering. Instead of rejecting Brown’s idea out of hand, let’s carry it forward to its logical extension and reap some real cost-savings.
Asked if he’d favor cutting off state funding for smoking-related illnesses, Brown indicated he would, since tobacco use is a choice, too. But why stop there?
• Let’s stop state funding for anyone who requires medical treatment or counseling for alcohol abuse, which is one of our culture’s costliest maladies, destroying families as well as individuals.
• Let’s stop state funding for anyone who suffers from black-lung disease or emphysema because they chose to work in a coal mine or cotton mill.
• Let’s stop state funding for any person who suffers from heart disease or other cardiopulmonary illnesses related to a high-fat diet, obesity or a sedentary lifestyle.
• Let’s stop state funding for anyone who suffers from Type 2 diabetes, the kind that’s often linked to lifestyle choices.
• Let’s deny state funding for medical treatments for anyone injured in an accident that was caused by their own bad judgment, such as driving too fast, running a red light, talking on a cell phone or texting while driving.
We could go on, but you get the picture.
Taxpayers often help foot the medical bills for many questionable choices with which they may personally disagree. Unlike Representative Brown, most of them recognize that funding treatment isn’t an endorsement of the illness or action that led to it. It’s done out of recognition that people suffering from serious medical problems need care and compassion, not punishment and condemnation.