On health care, Joe Biden challenged to ‘look a dying man in the eyes’
Published 6:19 PM EDT Sep 18, 2019
WASHINGTON– Ady Barkan, a progressive health care and political activist battling ALS, is heading into surgery, but took time to call out former Vice President Joe Biden in a new video for not responding to Barkan’s invitation to discuss his “vision of health care in America.”
USA TODAY has reached out to the Biden campaign for comment on Barkan’s video.
The issue of health care is more than a political subject for the California father who was diagnosed in 2016 with Lou Gehrig’s, a disease with no cure. He is now almost fully paralyzed and described his situation as a matter of “life and death.”
The video starts with Barkan saying that he has a message for Biden, saying he “hopes he hears it. I am going into surgery tomorrow, so wanted to get this out now.”
He continues to explain how he will be getting a tracheostomy to help him breathe, continuing that he might as well go “full cyborg and breathe through a machine as well” after explaining that he already talks through a computer, moves around in a wheelchair and has a feeding tube.
He continues that he has been “privileged” to have met with some of the top Democratic candidates for president including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and former Obama HUD Secretary Julián Castro.
Barkan conducts the interviews with a computer that tracks his eye movements to project a synthesized voice in order to converse. His conversations with the candidates focus on the problems with the health care system in the country, as he has faced challenges of his own since being diagnosed.
Liz Jaff, the president of Barkan’s Be A Hero PAC, told CNN previously that the goal of the series was not to endorse candidates, but to create a real dialogue around health care.
“He has realized, and this is the hardest part, that he can use his platform and his condition to make people watch and to call people to attention,” Jaff said.
“Almost every other major candidate from this debate has agreed to sit down with me, as well,” Barkan’s computeized voice continues while video footage shows the candidates at the most recent ABC News debate. “There is only one candidate who has not responded to my invitation: Joe Biden.”
“Mr. Vice President, you know about illness. You know about doctors and hospitals. You know that health care is personal– you’re running advertisements about it,” the video continues before playing a clip from a recent Biden campaign ad about the former vice president’s family’s medical struggles.
“You won’t come talk to me about it?” the computerized voice asks as Barkan stares straight into the camera. “Share your personal and powerful story like your colleagues and explain your vision of health care in America.”
“Look a dying man in the eyes and tell me how we fix this country,” Barkan continues. Then, Barkan proceeds to promise he would treat Biden with more “respect and compassion” during necessary hard conversations than Biden would “ever get from Donald Trump.”
Additionally, a petition has been created, asking “Joe to share his personal and powerful health care story like his colleagues, and explain his vision of healthcare in America. It should be more than a 30 second soundbite on the debate stage, or a 2 minute TV Ad.”
The petition continues, “We believe that Americans would benefit greatly from hearing the Vice President speak with Ady.”
“I’ll be back in the struggle in a few weeks and I hope that you will agree [to] join me,” the video concludes.
A number of prominent Democratic political figures have tweeted their support for Barkan leading up to his surgery, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.