Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I think most of us would agree that equal access to health care is a pressing social justice issue (e.g., Lisa Sowle Cahill's Theological Bioethics). I had an experience of severe cognitive dissonance this past weekend that raised some questions about the allocation of our nation's health care resources.
I spent four hours Saturday afternoon at my son's State Special Olympics gymnastics meet. I was particularly captivated by many of the young women athletes. Various forms of mental retardation are associated with low muscle tone and various metabolic conditions that can lead to body shapes and sizes that are very different from the images of women athletes we're accustomed to seeing in televized sporting events. Yet the athletes that I watched on Saturday were uniformly graceful, confident, and so evidently proud of themselves as they soared over vaults and performed their floor exercises all afternoon in their gym. They were in their element, performing physical feats that they had practiced for years with their supportive, capable, and loving volunteers, and they KNEW they were truly beautiful, and they truly WERE beautiful.
Later that evening, I went out to dinner with some friends at the outdoor patio of a restaurant on the shores of a lake near where we live. It's a dockside restaurant, where boaters can pull up to the dock, hop on shore, and eat dinner. As we ate, we couldn't help but notice the conspicuous parade of, shall we say, "surgically-enhanced" female bodies in bikinis popping in and out of the boats docking for dinner. The basic tenor of the conversations I overheard in a visit to the ladies' room revealed that, for all the conventional physical beauty on display on that dock, many of these women seemed to be suffering an inordinate amount of insecurity and lack of confidence about their appearance.
Surely, whatever it is that the Special Olympics volunteers do with their athletes every weekend in their practice sessions must cost society a fraction of what is spent on plastic surgery in the U.S. And, based on my observations last Saturday, it's much more effective in promoting self-esteem and self-confidence. Isn't there some sort of CST argument for reallocating some of our nation's health care resources from the plastic surgery business to a Special Olympics-type program for people with too much money?