Who Is To Blame?

The Washington Post is reporting a truly tragic story about a 12-year-old boy in Maryland who died after bacteria from an infected tooth spread to his brain.  As the story states: 
"A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him." 
And why didn't he have this done?  Well, according to the story, because his family is poor and lacks dental insurance.

The lawyer who represents the family is quoted in the article as saying: 
"I certainly hope the state agencies responsible for making sure these children have dental care take note so that Deamonte didn't die in vain." 
So, it is not the child's mother who is responsible for his dental care -- it is "the state agencies."  And this unfortunate child's death is now going to be used by the advocates of the welfare state to push for even more government control over the lives of the poor, who, quite frankly, need more personal responsibility, not less.

Look, I know it is a hard-hearted thing to say, but unless someone has a real problem, adequate dental care is cheap.  All it takes is regular use of a toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss, which together cost less than one take-out dinner.  Did this boy's mother provide him with these simple tools and show him how to use them?  I seriously doubt it.  Whose fault is that? 

More importantly, just about any parent should be able to scrape together $80 if needed to save his or her child's life.  Was there no one in this boy's family or community who were willing to make this small sacrifice?

Contrary to the Post's interpretation of this sad event, it seems to me that it is a perfect illustration of the terribly corrosive effects that the welfare state has had on large swaths of American society.  It shouldn't require a "state agency" to make sure that this boy, and the many others like him, take care of their teeth.  Moreover, our continuing unwillingness as a society to speak openly about the responsibility that poor people have for their own lives, for good and ill, is a depressing testament to how ingrained the statist ideology of "compassion" has become.  Despite the welfare reform of the mid-1990s, there still is much, much work to be done. 

Steven M. Warshawsky 

Update: Reader Steve Campbell comments:

This story, although tragic for the boy is not about the poverty of the parents, it is about their criminality.  Unless they were mentally incapable of getting this child to a dentist or a help agency there is plenty of free care given by the dental community, or paid by churches or social agencies both private and public..this is just a story of pure neglect. 
The Washington Post is reporting a truly tragic story about a 12-year-old boy in Maryland who died after bacteria from an infected tooth spread to his brain.  As the story states: 
"A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him." 
And why didn't he have this done?  Well, according to the story, because his family is poor and lacks dental insurance.

The lawyer who represents the family is quoted in the article as saying: 
"I certainly hope the state agencies responsible for making sure these children have dental care take note so that Deamonte didn't die in vain." 
So, it is not the child's mother who is responsible for his dental care -- it is "the state agencies."  And this unfortunate child's death is now going to be used by the advocates of the welfare state to push for even more government control over the lives of the poor, who, quite frankly, need more personal responsibility, not less.

Look, I know it is a hard-hearted thing to say, but unless someone has a real problem, adequate dental care is cheap.  All it takes is regular use of a toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss, which together cost less than one take-out dinner.  Did this boy's mother provide him with these simple tools and show him how to use them?  I seriously doubt it.  Whose fault is that? 

More importantly, just about any parent should be able to scrape together $80 if needed to save his or her child's life.  Was there no one in this boy's family or community who were willing to make this small sacrifice?

Contrary to the Post's interpretation of this sad event, it seems to me that it is a perfect illustration of the terribly corrosive effects that the welfare state has had on large swaths of American society.  It shouldn't require a "state agency" to make sure that this boy, and the many others like him, take care of their teeth.  Moreover, our continuing unwillingness as a society to speak openly about the responsibility that poor people have for their own lives, for good and ill, is a depressing testament to how ingrained the statist ideology of "compassion" has become.  Despite the welfare reform of the mid-1990s, there still is much, much work to be done. 

Steven M. Warshawsky 

Update: Reader Steve Campbell comments:

This story, although tragic for the boy is not about the poverty of the parents, it is about their criminality.  Unless they were mentally incapable of getting this child to a dentist or a help agency there is plenty of free care given by the dental community, or paid by churches or social agencies both private and public..this is just a story of pure neglect.