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Of bleeding hearts and criminals

By Doug Patton
web posted February 11, 2002


I was nineteen when Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first heart transplant in 1967, and I remember thinking that it sounded like a fantasy.  Since then, in one generation, the procedure has gone from science fiction to almost routine medicine. 


So routine, it seems, that we now give them to felons serving time in our prisons.


The story is that of a 31-year old California convict who received a heart transplant that cost Golden State taxpayers a cool one million dollars.  Meanwhile, all across the country, four thousand honest, hardworking citizens who need a heart sit waiting and dying.


As Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez put it, "You have to wonder if a law-abiding, taxpaying citizen drew one last breath while Jailhouse Joe was getting a second wind."


This story is very personal to me.  About a year ago, a member of my family was told that her heart was functioning at ten percent of normal.  She very nearly died, since a heart functioning at anything less than thirty-five percent qualifies a patient for a transplant. 


Once on the list, however, it normally takes an average of two years to get a heart in our part of the country.  Fortunately, drug therapy has worked so far, and she has made a nearly miraculous recovery, but I've often wondered what her fate might have been had drugs not done the trick. 


In this age of anxiety over the "rights" of every worthless, ungrateful and undeserving criminal, concern for the rights of those the constitution was meant to protect have been lost in the shuffle.  As attorney Rando Wick of Seattle argued in a point/counterpoint article in the June 10, 1996, issue of Physician's Weekly, "If Supreme Court decisions from the 1970s justify state-funded organ transplants for prisoners, then any non-prisoner denied such treatment, arguably, is denied equal protection under the 14th Amendment.  In effect, the prisoner gets a special right, a constitutional right to health care that the non-prisoner is denied."


Many Americans are bewildered by such bizarre ideas as heart transplants for prisoners, but this is just the latest example of what, in less politically correct times, we used to call "bleeding-heart liberalism."  The people who put forth this kind of silliness clutter the political and social landscape with increasingly strange and foreign notions, ideas that seem to fly in the face of any and all common sense.


Here in my own home state of Nebraska, one of our most liberal state senators, DiAnna Schimek of Lincoln, has just introduced legislation that would give illegal aliens the lower, in-state tuition rate to attend any of the schools in the state's university system.  As is the case in most states, the rate for a resident to attend the University of Nebraska is approximately one-third what a nonresident student would pay for the same education. 


The senator's rationale?  An educated work force benefits us all.


A few years ago, I worked for a congressional candidate who, when challenged on his opposition to gun control laws, used to say, "Criminals don't obey laws -- they're criminals."  I thought of that simple logic as I pondered the future of a society where prisoners receive heart transplants and lawbreakers get special rates to attend college. 


As I have pointed out in previous columns, it is amazing that we continue to cater to criminals and undocumented aliens since September 11th.  One would think that we would have curtailed the benefits and rights of illegal immigrants.  The exact opposite appears to be true, as Sen. Schimek's misguided legislation proves.


When Jefferson said that a little revolution was necessary once in a while, he could not have imagined that in the early years of the nation's third century, its citizens would be facing tyrannies such as these.  We will pay for these injustices.  The only question remaining is when we will rebel against them.


Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a speechwriter and policy advisor for federal, state and local candidates and elected officials. His work appears in various newspapers and on numerous web sites, including www.GOPUSA.com, www.AmericasVoices.org, www.EnterStageRight.com, www.EtherZone.com, www.TikiTrash.commentary, www.SIANEWS.com, and www.ConservativeThought.com. E-mail him at dpatton@neonramp.com.

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