Frequently the view is expressed in the UK that to be Christian one must be in favour having many services performed by the public sector of the economy. There are complaints that the coalition government is attempting to privatise the NHS, that the railways ought to be in public rather than private ownership, that gas and electricity ought to be private rather than public and so on.
Maybe some folks have short memories of just how bad things were before Margaret Thatcher’s government, when you had to go on a waiting list for up to six months to get a telephone, when trains were frequently late and the toilets in the carriages were more often blocked than working and bodies were piling up because local authority workers were striking and preventing funerals from taking place.
One area that I had always thought hitherto ought to be reserved for the public sector was that of regulating the providers of services, because of the need to be impartial and to be able to be fair towards all providers.
I have now read much of the Grand Jury Report into the case that is now the Kermit Gosnell murder trial in Pennsylvania. For those who have a strong stomach, it is in the Court of Common Pleas, First Judicial District of Philadelphia, Criminal Trial Division. It has the reference Misc 0009901-2008. For details of the bodies who could have prevented these tragedies continuing for so long look to pages 137 to 217
The details of what Dr. Gosnell did are gruesome enough, but what truly shocks is that the staff of the bodies set up to protect the public seemed so happy to let anything that happened happen without any need for them to involve themselves in monitoring what was happening. At least two women died at the hands of this doctor and there were several malpractice suits, but, with very few exceptions, none of the public servants whose duty to the residents of Philadelphia was to ensure the safety of the women who attended clinics like the Women’s Medical Society appear to have done anything other than stop investigations from taking place. Indeed the Grand Jury make the observation that nail salons were more regulated than such clinics.
In the UK there is heard from business from time to time the complaint that regulations are boiler-plated and are tougher than they need be. In Philadelphia, we had a Department of Health senior manager telling members of staff that they should not co-operate with law enforcement operatives when they raided a clinic on the grounds that they believed it to be illegally and wrongfully a source of prescriptions for controlled drugs which were likely to be abused and had a high price on the black market. In Philadelphia, we had a Department fo State which regulated certain professions including medicine, and a Department of Health which was responsible for regulating clinics which did not cross check information with each other such that neither knew the extent to which the clinic was failing to comply with the rules or the frequency of complaints made against a medical practitioner or the amounts of damages that his malpractice insurance was paying out with what frequency. There was a tendency to have the bureaucracy produce opinions on how to administer the law based more on what the perceived views of the Governor were rather than on what the law required.
It should not matter whether the regulator is the Environmental Health Department of the local council, the Health and Safety Executive, an Examinations Board for pubic examinations like Edexcel or a court, all should enforce the law consistently and objectively. It appears that some at least in Philadelphia managed to convince the Grand Jury that they only wanted to collect their salaries with as little effort as possible on their own part.
So what has all of this got to do with being a Christian you ask? Well, aside from failing to render unto Caesar, the metaphorical worldly authority, what is Caesar’s, (Mark 12:13-17) but there is the even older statement in Leviticus 19:15, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor of favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly” and then in v16 “Do not do anything that endangers your neighbour’s life. I am the LORD.”