St. Louis Students Win Essay Contest on Health Care

20, January 2010
Elizabeth Brennan (1st place—tie) and Kayla Massey (2nd place), reading their essays live on the Bernie Hayes Show.

On December 10, 2009, the Missouri History Museum hosted a forum on public health care. A panel of experts, including Rep. Tishaura Jones, Amy Smoucha (Jobs with Justice) and Myrna Fichtenbaum, addressed such issues as racial disparities in health care, income levels’ effect on health care, and the natural right to health care, which is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The program also recognized winning essays by Metro St. Louis–area students in the thirteenth annual Human Rights Essay Contest, sponsored by the St. Louis Coalition for Human Rights. Sophomore Arnetris Drummer of Cleveland NJROTC Academy and senior Elizabeth Brennan of Rosati-Kain tied for first place. They, along with the third- and fourth-place winners, appeared on the Bernie Hayes Show, WGNU 920 AM, on December 31 to read their winning essays on the air. The top essays are presented below. Arnetris Drummer, Cleveland NJROTC Academy

Essay contest co-winner Arnetris Drummer and coordinator Jamala Rogers.

It’s October 28, 2009, 3:14 p.m. and I’m at Cardinal Glennon Hospital located on Grand. I’m sitting in the emergency room, trying to get an idea of why health care is a human right. It’s fall, the flu season. As I look around, I see a baby coughing while in the arms of her mother. Her mother is reading her a story to ease her mind. An old Caucasian man is talking to a doctor, telling the doctor that he doesn’t have insurance. Just sitting here, it is obvious to me that these Americans need health care to feel like real people, people who are cared for. Some say that the U.S. would be one step closer to communism with Universal Health Care. The biggest question I have after seeing all this is how can negative perspectives like that exist in the health care debate with all these people suffering? I see a little girl sitting on her father’s lap crying because she has a high fever and a big headache. I see a teenage mother and father with their baby on a cell phone telling granny that they’ve been waiting hours for a doctor because their insurance isn’t as good as everybody else’s. I see an elderly man in a wheelchair, turning redder every five minutes because he still hasn’t been cared for. I see why health care is a human right. I see what the men on Capitol Hill apparently do not. Health care is a human right because the Constitution promised us life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You can’t pursue happiness if you’re sick with a disease and slowly dying because you do not have insurance to get treated. Health care is something that every person, be they citizen or immigrant, needs. Everybody deserves the right to feel insured regardless of the depth of their pockets. Health care is a human right because a baby should not be punished because their parents cannot afford good insurance. Everyone is debating about health care because some feel it should come automatically while others feel you should have to work for it. But this debate is doing nothing but showing that our elected officials must not care enough about the baby I see right now, getting sicker by the minute, more than being right in Congress. It’s 4:50 p.m. As I sit in Cardinal Glennon Hospital, I feel like I’m starting to think differently than most of America. I see men and women fighting to get treatments for themselves and their families. But America sees men and women looking for an easy way out. I see people struggling to get up when their names are called to see a doctor, just to be sat back down so a person with a better insurance can take their place in line. I do not see the government slowly turning into communism. I do not see change. This is the state of American partisanship. The health care debate is microcosmic of the state of American politics, more concerned with being right than doing right. We have to come together for the crying baby, the elderly man, and the teenage parents who sit here in the ER waiting for their country to change. Elizabeth Brennan, Rosati-Kain High School To say that a person has “the right” to something means that the act or item is a natural need or action and that because of its necessity, the person should not be prevented by circumstances or legislature from acquiring the item or performing the action. When a child is thirsty, she has the right to find and drink a glass of water. When an adult is hungry, he has the right to eat a sandwich. In the same way, when a person breaks her leg, she has the right to a medical professional’s adequate care and support in the healing process. In America today, there are the “haves” and “have-nots” when it comes to health insurance. Only those who can afford health insurance purchase it. Those who cannot buy coverage go without. When an injury does occur to the uninsured, they can go to the rare clinics which specialize in those without health insurance, or they can visit the hospital or doctor’s office and pay extremely high costs for medical care. As a result, many people avoid seeking medical help until a minor sickness becomes a serious case, and they are then stuck with the enormous bill. The problems in the healthcare system have been recognized and have attempted to be solved in the past, but the “solutions” and measures taken to offset the problems have been, for the most part, ineffective, as our healthcare system is still in need of change. If the U.S. government accepted the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, it would be accepting the included condition that considers healthcare a right. If the right to healthcare was to be affirmed in the United States, then there would have to be some way to give everyone access to this healthcare, which has proven to be a huge task that is yet to be completed. By not ratifying the right to healthcare, the government can avoid the issue and have relative peace on the healthcare front. Healthcare is a tricky subject to discuss because of its importance in our day-to-day lives and its presence in our economy. The hubbub around the issue demonstrates our recognition that healthcare is needed by all. While the “healthcare” debate is an umbrella title for a variety of complicated issues, at the crux of the debate is a discussion not over whether healthcare needs to change, but over how it should change. While many support a government-sponsored program, others feel that this system would create too many problems of its own. Regardless of the positions held by those participating in the current debate, simply the presence of the debates confirms Americans’ needs for a change in the system. Ideally, a change in the system will bring about a move toward the affirmation and protection of healthcare as a human right.