American Civilians Don’t Fall Under Geneva Convention

Last week my wife had a surgical procedure performed at a fairly new hospital in Fort Worth. The doctor was remarkable, the nurses and staff were great and every step of the process was markedly pleasant and uncomplicated. Since my wife has good insurance, she didn’t have to save for months to afford the procedure or wait till the last minute and stagger into an emergency room. There was no crowd and no waiting room filled with the bloody, dazed or urgently infirm. It was red carpet treatment. The hospital even offered valet parking in the patient drop-off area.

Not to be ungrateful, but it made me uncomfortable. It was almost like a country club.

My wife and I are barely on the middle side of middle class. The only reason she received this superb treatment is because her employer offers an outstanding benefit package.

Without her job, we might have wound up at a cheap clinic or over at a public hospital where the closest you get to valet is an ambulance.

Later in the day, after my wife was safely back home and I was watching my youngest son play soccer, I looked out at all the boys and wondered if their families had decent insurance and what kind of treatment they’d receive if a serious ailment arose. What if their parents didn’t have good insurance? What if their parents didn’t make enough money?

Who in good conscience could stand up and say one person or his or her children deserved better medical care than another? Who would do that?

That’s easy.

The good ‘ol U.S. of A..

That’s how our healthcare system is currently run, right now, every day.

Figuratively speaking, if you have money, you stay at the front of the line. If you don’t you languish at the rear, limping forward till it’s your turn.

If you have good insurance, you get V.I.P. treatment and valet parking. If you have bad insurance, they get to you as soon as possible, but the cost is often more debilitating than the injury you get treated for. If you have no insurance, they get to you when and if they can. And only after you’ve staggered into the ER from your car.

My grandfather on my mom’s side was involved in one of the forward campaigns of D-Day. He got shot squarely in the upper part of one of his thighs and lay on the battlefield, probably thinking he was going to die. But he didn’t. A German combat medic came to his side and treated his wound. My grandfather didn’t speak German and I don’t know if the German medic spoke English. But I doubt he asked my grandfather if he had money for the procedure or good insurance so the Third Reich could be reimbursed for his life-saving treatment. My grandfather—the enemy—was wounded. And the German medic simply did his job, regardless of uniform, nationality, rank, class, etc.

American combat medics are instructed to do the same. Such treatment is mandated by the Geneva Convention, but apparently it doesn’t apply to American civilians.

Arguably, my grandfather received better and fairer treatment on the battlefield from the enemy than many Americans get from their own healthcare system today. And make no mistake. The medical industry and the insurance companies that discriminately dole out access to its wares too often treat the poor, the disenfranchised and the migratory with less respect than they would afford an enemy.

I don’t blame the doctors or nurses or surgeons. I blame the system. Any system that offers better or worse treatment for my child or any of his soccer teammates or their parents because they have more or less money or better or worse insurance is wrong, unconscionable and evil.

The Declaration of Independence clearly states that we are all endowed with certain unalienable rights, among these “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The right of “Life” is made alienable by our healthcare system. It’s un-American and it’s unacceptable and the Obama administration is trying to do something about it as you read these words.

So think real hard before you laud the status quo or oppose a major overhaul in the inflated, bankrupting nightmare that serious medical treatment amounts to for millions of people in this country. If you found yourself on the lower rungs of the economic ladder or the uninsured end of our healthcare system, you wouldn’t want to be dying on the health insurance industry’s class battlefield. There might not be any Nazis around to save you.

E.R. Bills is a writer from Aledo, Texas and the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional and Nefarious (History Press, 2013). He can be reached at: erbillsthinks@gmail.com. Read other articles by E.R..

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. rosemarie jackowski said on July 17th, 2009 at 7:28am #

    Interesting article.
    If US citizens declare war on the US government, they might be covered by the Geneva Convention. Is it time for the Revolution to start – on second thought, the US government has not conformed to international law for a long time.

  2. Phil said on July 17th, 2009 at 11:06am #

    the Obama administration is trying to do something about [the dysfunctional healthcare system] as you read these words.

    Too bad that that “something” is to keep the unjust status quo intact, while trying to kill any chance at reform.

  3. rosemarie jackowski said on July 17th, 2009 at 11:41am #

    Phil…the government in collusion with the insurance companies are responsible for 18,000 US deaths every year. It seems that ‘they’ have declared war on us.

  4. GeorgeWatts said on July 17th, 2009 at 12:06pm #

    Only problem is that the Geneva Conventions didn’t exist at the time of D-
    Day. Some people just do the right thing without being told.

  5. Geo said on July 17th, 2009 at 4:28pm #

    What if hundreds of uninsured sick or injured Americans began trekking tot he gates of the nearest army base demanding coverage under the Geneva convention?

    Would be an interesting protest and great TV media attention getter.

    Be pretty hard PR wise for the local military base to turn away masses of local citizens in their neighborhoods who actual support the base’s existence with tax dollars.

  6. James said on July 17th, 2009 at 7:56pm #

    Great article. But sadly, there are tons of stories of people being treated like low-class BY their insurance companies. You can hate Michael Moore and Sicko, but when he asked people to email in their insurance horror stories to him, he got 25,000 emails in one week.

    Real reform= single payer. We need to stop being selfish looking only after ourselves, and start being American by helping each other out in times of need, regardless of your income, race, whatever.

  7. Annie said on July 18th, 2009 at 12:05am #

    Very good article. Thank you.

  8. Daniel said on July 18th, 2009 at 10:45pm #

    Gee…what if governments would let people make enough money after paying taxes to pay for their own health, education, etc.? I know, I know, some would not live responsible lives and as we all know there is big money for the government in the health business….besides it’s just a great way of keeping people under control…..you know like in communist countries where they sent you for mental treatment or in socialist countires where they tell you your to old….go home and die.
    Thas is what is coming to America.

  9. Hue Longer said on July 19th, 2009 at 12:18am #

    The Obama admin is doing everything it can to NOT do anything about it…it’s going to be difficult but even the elitist FDR had to give under obvious pressure.

  10. Not So Bemused An Observer said on July 21st, 2009 at 7:31am #

    The debate over health care in Congress focusses on two things: maintaining profits and lowering costs. Where does this contradiction leave us?

  11. R Hilton said on July 30th, 2009 at 9:05pm #

    I’ll grant that “the system” could stand a fix up, as is true of every
    system that has been polluted by government influnces as ours has.

    However,
    the ONLY way to achieve egalitarian healthcare (or any service) is to lower the quality down to a level that all can afford it. Before you say that’s ok, think about how it’s the “upper end” which raises the bar of quality for all.

    Also think about the fact that even if the standard of care is lowered down to the lowest denominator, the “haves” will still have the ability to do better. That’s why rich Canadians come to the U.S. when egalitarian isn’t good enough for them.

    PS: Do you encourage your soccer kid to strive for an
    egalitarian outcome on the soccer field?