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The Tea Party Protesters Insult Cancer Patients, Belittle Disease

Last year, Senator Ted Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. This week Senator Chris Dodd, Kennedy’s friend and fill-in on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is a serious disease. Nearly 30,000 Americans die every year from prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is a treatable disease–if it is caught early. As with most cancers, delays in detection and treatment frequently mean worsening symptoms and poorer outcomes.

A 2008 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the uninsured were less likely to receive preventative care–like cancer screenings:

"The uninsured are less likely to receive timely preventive care. Uninsured nonelderly adults are far less likely to have had preventive care such as pap smears, mammograms, and prostate exams compared to insured adults. Consequently, uninsured cancer patients are diagnosed in later stages of the disease and die earlier than those with insurance."

Against this backdrop, Senators Dodd and Kennedy are battling cancer with the best health insurance in America–the government-run Congressional health care plan. Both Senator Dodd and Senator Kennedy have said that they are aware that they’re getting better treatment than millions of Americans. It’s why, as Kennedy put it in a Newsweek column, they want to make sure that every American has access to quality, affordable health care:

"Quality care shouldn’t depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to."

Here are two American cancer patients at the height of political power; one of these patients is spending his last days of his life fighting to make the world just a little bit better for his fellow patients. These two Senator-patients are working together to ensure that the nurse doesn’t have her chemotherapy delayed after an insurance bureaucrat rules that her previous acne made her breast cancer a pre-existing condition.

And what do they get for this work on behalf of the American people? They get rabid right-wing fringe protesters personally insulting them, and telling them that there disease isn’t serious. Talking Points Memo reported on what these pathetic protesters had to say about Dodd’s cancer:

"Barack Obama clearly said, all you should do is take a painkiller. How come we just don’t give Chris Dodd painkillers?" shouted one man. "Like a handful of them at a time! He can wash it down with Ted Kennedy’s whiskey — oh excuse me, scotch!"

Of course, this makes no sense and should be dismissed as the rantings of a small fringe of the American public. But the faux-controversy makes for great copy for the cable tv stations of the world, and we have to put up with this delusional fringe being treated as a serious party in the health care reform "debate."

While the fringe shouts, cancer goes undetected in the 47 million Americans who lack health insurance. While the fringe shouts, uninsured Americans who are diagnosed with cancer fight to get the drugs they need to stay alive. One hopes that the fringe’s shouts will be quieted down by a United States Senator walking on to the floor of the Senate one final time–to cast a deciding vote in favor of the cause of his life.

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