Healthcare & Natural Law

The recent case of an Oregon woman whose cancer medication fell outside the bounds of her healthcare coverage shocked me a little. I suppose its only to be expected that insurance would not cover something altogether necessary for healthy survival, that's just the way things often work. But to hear that the same coverage would pay for "palliative care," including assisted suicide, caused me to question just what precisely is meant by the term "healthcare" anyway.

If there is one thing I can do, it's find synonyms and verbal equivalents. I've had to take a battery of tests to prove my ability to do just such things, and was not able to apply for college until this skill was demonstrated outright. Thus, I am lead to believe that understanding the non-synonymous relationship of the words "health" and "death" is a rather facile project. In fact, the astute third-grader will tell you that these words could even be called "opposites" (or "antonyms" for those of us who've taken the SAT). As it seems, "health" and "death" have nothing to do with one another, other than that the failure of the former results in the actualization of the latter. The contradiction in terms alone should be enough to demonstrate how unfitting it is to place assisted suicide under the provision of a healthcare plan. Maybe the ones in charge of this particular plan didn't have to take college entrance exams. That seems like the only logical conclusion. Either that or they cheated.

But at any rate, and even if they did cheat, there is another level of truth that is far more fundamental than opposition in terms that needs to be considered. That truth is called "natural law," and has always been the constant guide of the Church in matters of morality. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that natural law is "nothing else than the rational creature's participation in the eternal law." In other words, it is man's natural involvement in the divine Wisdom that created and rules all existence. By virtue of his own existence, the human person is subject to the laws of all existence, which for the Christian (and I dare say any theist) are the laws of God. Moreover, they are not the laws of God as promulgated in the Ten Commandments or other revelation, but rather the underlying law of God written on the human heart from its very conception. Natural law is just that: "natural."

The case of healthcare providing coverage for assisted suicide is a stark contrast to the natural law. Almost anyone would agree that killing innocent human life is a moral evil. Even the most radical murderers view their killings as in some way vindictive toward a supposed evil present in the their victims, or else the achievement of a higher good through the death of innocent life. Assisted suicide falls under this final category; those murdering innocent persons believe they are accomplishing a higher good for them in the end. This, however, is not natural law. Natural law seeks the good of the person in the natural order, i.e. the preservation of life. Assisted suicide presupposes a sort of divine act on the part of the killer, wherein they feel it is their responsibility to supercede the natural order and take all life into their own hands. In short, they assume the role of God, and essentially deem it appropriate to judge between life and death. Assisted suicide, as it completely opposes the possibility of "health," might rather been seen as a "mercy killing." The problem here is that all mercy, if it is authentic, is dispatched from the throne of the Almighty. Nowhere does God condone such action. In no way can 'mercy' be achieved through murder. It is another fundamental contradiction in terms, and one that ought to be taken into account when "healthcare" providers hire new executives. Just look at their SAT scores.