Martin Luther King on Healthcare

In a 1966 speech delivered in Chicago (to the Medical Committee for Human Rights), Martin Luther King said: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” Did he actually say that? Believe it or not, because there’s no transcript or other recording of this particular King speech, the historians who debate such things are divided –over one small detail– whether he actually said “inhumane” or “inhuman.” Obviously, it doesn’t matter, but as a piece of historic trivia, it’s rather rich (in its meaninglessness), don’t you think?

  •  “Inhumane” refers more to the lack of feelings/emotions, most specifically, the lack of compassion for misery or the suffering of others. “Inhuman” refers more to actions; typically those that are brutal, savage, barbarous, cruel, etc.

There’s little doubt in my mind that if Dr. King knew about the debate over his words, it would bring a wry smile to his face.

I have a suggestion: Instead of making his day the day we remind ourselves about how far we still have to go, why not make today the day we congratulate ourselves –in his memory– over how far we’ve actually come.

—Tom Finn

Editors Note: According to a 2002 report from the Institute of Medicine, when groups have equal access care and have the same education and income levels, gaps in health outcomes still exist between minorities and non-minorities. And healthcare disparities are not just limited to race or ethnicity. Gender inequity, sexual orientation, geographic location and disability are historically linked to discrimination and exclusion. Eliminating disparities in all of these areas would prevent about one million hospitalizations each year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Equality.




—Tom Finn

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