Launch Post, 2/21

In Pathologies of Power, Paul Farmer attempts to create a comparison between liberation theology and the practice of Medicine, using both to illustrate his main argument, that human rights are being abused and that there needs to be a preferential option for the poor so that these people will have access to proper health care. Farmer argues that, indeed, the poor are those who are in most need of proper health care: “Most often, diseases themselves make a preferential option for the poor…every careful survey, across boundaries of time and space, shows that the poor are sicker than the nonpoor.” He insists that the current health care system does not care for these people as it should and that change must happen. And to offer a method for this change, Farmer introduces liberation theology, which “argues that genuine change will be most often rooted in small communities of poor people,” making use of the methodology: observe, judge, and act. Observation consists of analysis, looking at the situation at hand and analyzing its structure and roots. What kind of health care are the poor receiving and how did this come to be? Judgement consists of determining if the situation is just or not. Is the current system oppressive or fair? Finally, action consists of “the struggle for the liberation of the poor” at the physical level first. Farmer strongly argues that humanity needs to take responsibility for this injustice to the poor and that a communal effort must be made to solve it. He uses a quote from Sobrino to illustrate this point: “the poor of the world are not thea causal products of human history…no, poverty results from the actions of other human beings.” Personally, I can understand Farmer’s point that it is not just that the people who truly need simple health care are not getting it because of a lack of money. I can see how unfair it may seem if I was born into a poor family and was unable to get necessary health care because of this background that I was born into. I also, like Farmer’s methodology: observe, judge, act, because it challenges the public to truly be open to and question the justice of the current health care system and to act upon it. However, I felt that Farmer did not give any concrete ways to solve the proposed injustice. He gave fairly vague details of success in third world countries, using this methodology, but never gave definite details. Ultimately, when there is a preferential option for the poor, the quality of health care may decrease from a decrease in funds. From, the part of the article I read, I feel that Farmer did not give an adequate amount of examples and rhetoric to convince me that a preferential option for the poor will benefit the current health care system.

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1 Response to Launch Post, 2/21

  1. I agree with you that Farmer’s methodology, “observe, judge, act” seems plausible because it engages people to look at the heart of the problem and really examine what is going on and what should be going on. I want to challenge your claim, “…when there is a preferential option for the poor, the quality of health care may decrease from a decrease in funds.” I think that Farmer’s writings aim to show that there is a much better quality of health care when there is a preferential for the poor, and I agree with him. One part of the article that caught my attention was when Farmer says that “charity medicine too frequently consists of second-hand castoff services….” This reminded me of my old church where we would collect used eye glasses and left over medical supplies or prescriptions to send on a mission trip. If there was a preferential for the poor, they would not be receiving America’s leftovers, but instead they would receive unique treatments and health care that were made specifically for their community. I think this is exactly what Farmer’s goal is with his “observe, judge, act” method. I also think Farmer gave an excellent example of how his method and a preference for the poor can be successful. Taking up almost six pages, Farmer went step by step through his method and applied it to his health care mission in rural Haiti. While this is just one case, I think that Farmer gave a very detailed description and really showed his readers how this method of liberation theology can be successful. For me, Farmer gave a step by step solution for solving what he calls “human rights abuse.” What I liked best about his findings and methodology is that it examines an institutional problem and gives personal solutions for each community affected by this problem.

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