The world’s population is 7 billion. In 2015, 5 billion people lacked access to safe, affordable surgery and anesthesia, the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery reported that year.

This was not because surgical care was complex or expensive, as we practice it in our Western countries. Rather, common procedures were not available, such as safe obstetrical care, like a cesarean section for delayed labor, or repairing a hernia that has created significant disability so the individual cannot work and provide for his or her family.

As a retired pediatric surgeon working several months a year in Africa, I cannot erase the daily images of human beings coming to the hospital who are malnourished and have neglected care. Poverty, unequal distribution of wealth and limited education are the harbingers of this moral dilemma.

Looking at medical care in our country and certainly in Maine, can we do no better than our counterparts in Africa? Are we to deny appropriate medical care to our population when we as a nation can afford it?

I am a pediatric surgeon who has practiced in Maine for over 30 years, and a significant portion of our practice included Medicaid patients. A child born with a life-threatening congenital anomaly or a diagnosis that is disabling if not corrected at birth should not have care limited by marginal insurance coverage.

How do our politicians avoid and deny the reality of both children and adults who are suffering, not because they did something wrong or didn’t take responsibility for their health? Caring for the ill patient is a privilege and is part of our humanity. We cannot sit idly by and have the benefits available to our Maine residents erased in Congress’ philosophical debates.

Michael Curci, M.D.