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Verbum Vitae

Health Care Reform and Human Life
By Rev. Paul CB Schenck


In the increasing heat of the debate over health care “reform”, it is more and more important to try to clear away the smoke, silence some of the fireworks and get clarity about the moral issues involved. There are legitimate differences of opinion when it comes to how to structure or pay for health care. There are not however, legitimate differences about what constitutes true and moral health care and what doesn’t. The Catholic Bishops have consistently taught, stated and publicly advocated for a system that respects, protects and cares for all human life from conception to natural death. That means there is no place for abortion, euthanasia, suicide or lethal scientific research in health care reform. The Bishops are emphatic on this point and have called for health care reform that reflects that moral precept.


Still, some are being understood to say that the very concept of universal health care is unacceptable to Christians. This is false. The Catholic Bishops have consistently affirmed access to basic health care as a fundamental human right. In their “Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform” the Bishops state, “Every person has a right to adequate health care. This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons, who are made in the image of God.” Allowing even one innocent person to die because they cannot obtain basic health care, either through a hospital, clinic or other service is morally unacceptable. That they should die because they do not have a means to pay or lack proof of ability to pay is as wrong as paying to have someone killed.


Access to basic health care is a pro-life concern. It is important that pro-life advocates be able to explain the distinctive between mere access to medical services and providing health care on the basis of the sanctity of innocent human life and the dignity of the person. Human beings are entitled by right to health care that morally and ethically respects, protects and promotes human life and dignity. Pro-life people will be careful to support health care reform that reflects the Bishops’ teaching in this regard. Rejection of abortion, euthanasia, suicide and lethal research is not a rejection of the right to health care. To the contrary, health services that respect life guarantee that all will receive the care and respect they deserve.