I am just going to say it: the Ebola outbreak reaching the United States is a teachable moment. Not only is it proof that human beings are all in this life-on-earth-thing together, but it is also proof that we need to start aggressively treating health care as a human right.
Ebola is a terrible disease that kills indiscriminately. It does not matter if you are black, white, gay, straight, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, man, woman, neither, or both. It can infect you, and it can kill you. And we all agree, it's an awful way to die.
The most disappointing part about the Ebola virus that has now killed over 3,800 people worldwide, is that we really should have a vaccine for it already. Sure, it mutates, and is difficult to study given its relative geographic isolation, but it is not airborne. The real trouble is, prior to this outbreak, it only affected the poorest parts of Africa. With only four or five major pharmaceutical companies developing commercial vaccines and antibiotics, it hardly seems profitable to develop a cure for such a disease.
I'm going to say this too: profit should not be what drives health care.
This isn't the only scenario where the drug companies' profit-motivation has created a potential health crisis for humanity. We also have for-profit health care to thank for the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs. Here's how this works in eight steps:
- Disease strikes poverty-ridden country.
- Patients begin seeing doctors for treatment.
- Patients get treatment
- Patients cannot afford to keep up with treatment
- The disease mutates in the patients, becoming resistant to said treatment.
- When finances allow, patients try a different treatment.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5.
- Disease spreads to new patients.
A good example of this trend is the rise of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in Haiti, which is, just as the name suggests, resistant to multiple drugs.
Listen, people, greed and fear will be our undoing as a species. We cannot continue to look at the suffering of our brothers and sisters abroad (and at home) through a lens of isolationism and personal profitability if we are to survive. This means rejecting calls to "close our borders" and "take care of our own first." Frankly, we can't guarantee a closed border no matter how strict the laws we pass may be. We live in a global world. Whether we want to accept it or not, we are our brother's keeper, make no mistake. Of course, some of you may disagree, but to you, I ask: what price would you put on your life?
I am so tired of worrying about how the shortsightedness of my fellow man will end up killing me. We all want to live, so why can't we just work together?
And so for once, we must stop thinking of ourselves first, and recognize we are all the same. What happens to one will undoubtedly affect all. At the risk of sounding even more preachy than I already do, we are all capitalists, we are communists, we're all Americans, Nigerians, Ugandans, Liberians, Haitians, Cubans, Russians, etc. There is no race, no religion, nationality, or ideology that can change who we are at our core, or separate us from each other. We are human beings. So let's do better.