I must confess that I first wrote this Liberating Word last week after a day of great frustration … well, one day and half-a-night. After three weeks, we found out that the clinical trial Bill had been accepted into at Sarah Cannon Research Institute did NOT have a spot for him. With a “goodbye and good luck,” we were left scrambling to figure out what to do next. I sent Bill off to the theater and spent the next six hours researching and reading through more than 1,600 clinical trials trying to find one that might be open and suitable for him. I have to say, my one college biology course did not prepare me for this work.

The next morning, I sent out a dozen emails and made several calls, and then came to the church office where I began to vent my frustrations to you. Actually, I’m appealing to you to join me in demanding that our profit-driven health care system serve us better. Right-wing politicians keep mouthing the words, “We have the best health care in the world,” and THEY probably do. The average American, however, does NOT. By any objective measure, the United States does NOT have the best health care (not even close), but we DO have the most expensive.

When a church hires me as a consultant they assume I have some expertise, can help them, know more than they do, and will leave them better than I found them. That is reasonable, and it is what I expect of the doctors I hire. When I take on a church as a client, I find out everything I can about them and their community; if they face a unique challenge, I do research, call colleagues, and quickly become an expert or find an expert who can help them. What I keep wondering is why on earth the doctors to whom we have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars haven’t done the same for Bill. Why was I the one up until 3 a.m. reading about clinical trials rather than his oncologist? Why did I have to find the trial at Sarah Cannon, fight for six months to get into MD Anderson who keeps losing his records, and find an oncological surgeon at Winship Cancer Center? Why did our general practitioner, whom we have paid tens of thousands of dollars over the years, simply abandon us once he heard the word “cancer”? Why is it that people getting rich can’t care as much about their clients as I care about mine? Is that too much to ask?

I know MANY medical professionals who are deeply committed and care for their patients, and I pray their tribe will increase! What I don’t know is where they are when we need them and why this money-motivated health system is so lacking in “care.” There has to be a better way, and those of us who are disciples of Jesus, the great physician, ought to be demanding it on behalf of those who can’t.

I’d feel like a total hypocrite if I hadn’t been saying this for years. My current experience only confirms that I’ve been right the entire time. Health care should be a human right for all, not a commodity to be sold. Maybe then those we pay will have to care.


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Rev. Michael Piazza