Archive for May 26th, 2012

 Dignity: bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation.

There is no greater indication of just how muddled we have become as a society as when those who have every reason to know better say things that might reflect their opinion, but don’t really make sense.

Friday afternoon, I was in my office, perusing an email thread that was sent to us because we are part of the Elder Law email list-serve, and I read this exchange:

Lawyer One:  This is a moral issue as well as a legal one.  What I tell my clients is that Congress, representing the will of the people, has set up our health care system so that we all are responsible to pay for our own long term care unless we are destitute, i.e., have less than $2,000 in assets.  Under the law he is required to pay for his own care because he can afford it.  If he chooses to take steps to make himself eligible, then he is asking the taxpayers to support him.  Does he want to do that?

Most clients with resources to pay for their own care choose to pay for it themselves.

Personally, I’d prefer a universal health care system, but that’s not what we have in this country.
Lawyer Two:  My somewhat obvious prejudice is for some sort of moral and ethical answer to this dilemma: health and long term care and death with dignity, so that people don’t have to waste their estate.  So, I aggressively want to find a solution because our political/social will has not matured to this point. 

I am getting the drift that there is no current answer.

There is so much fail in this exchange.  From the point of expecting that the taxpayer will pay for long-term care for those who can afford to pay for it themselves, to the idea that a person’s self-respect and bearing can be purchased, and that others should be compelled to purchase it for them, I see a breakdown in logic and a fundamental misuse of the language that is our stock in trade. 

There are some simple truths that are ignored by both officers of the court:

1) Only you can give you dignity.  That is why it is a display of self-respect.  I’ve seen people who have this in the face of sure and certain disdain of everyone surrounding them.  When it is real, no amount of disrespect and derision from others will change it.

2) Compelling others to buy it for you is unjust.  It is not charity, as charity cannot be compelled.

3) I’ve worn my copy of the Constitution out looking for where it is for the Government to provide “dignity” to anyone.  I can’t find it.

4) People do not value what they do not pay for. This is the most pointed truth of them all, and I have seen it played out again and again with people who have the means to pay for their own care who self-impoverish to become eligible for government paid long-term care, as they frantically gift away their entire estate not out of love of the beneficiaries, some of whom they believe to be undeserving, but only to get the care on someone else’s tab.

I find it offensive to suggest that it is somehow “immoral” that we don’t offer long-term care for everyone, paid for by others who are compelled to do so.  I resent the fact that I am increasingly expected to bear this cost, and in so doing, keep less of what I labored to make for the benefit of my own family, while the people who I am paying for can, with planning, divest themselves of everything they have, allowing their own families to keep more of this benefit while taking from mine.

My profession does not do anyone a service when it presumes to confuse that which is permissible with being moral.

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