Sunday, March 29, 2009
"Now this is truly sick"
The comment is from The Nation, and it echoes my own feelings. The recent death of Natasha Richardson, who was injured on a ski slope in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, is now being shamelessly exploited by far-right cranks in the United States, blaming her death on "socialized medicine." Leading the assault is a doctor who wrote a broadside against "Canadacare," suggesting that the lack of a CT scanner might have played a role--without even bothering to find out that the local hospital that first treated Richardson had one.
Richardson's death was the result of a number of factors, including her own initial refusal of treatment. Would she have had a better chance of surviving in the US? Not likely, says this American doctor, who seems to know what he's talking about.
The one point at issue is Quebec's lack of a medivac system, meaning that Richardson had to be driven rather than flown to a specialized treatment centre. But not only might this have made no difference; it's a stretch to imagine that all American citizens in remote areas, rich or poor, would invariably get helicopter service to the nearest five-star hospital in an emergency.
In Canada, although there's obviously room for improvement, quality health care is available to everyone. In the US, you get only the treatment you can afford, and 50 million Americans don't even have health insurance. Fully half of all bankruptcies in the US are due to personal medical costs.
A number of Americans who have been observing the recent outbreak of self-interested righteousness anent Richardson's death have made some choice counter-comments of their own. Here's one (generally sound, although in fact two provinces--Ontario and BC--presently collect healthcare premiums). Here's another.
Canada is being inevitably caught up in a looming battle down south. The spectre of public health care is haunting corporate America at the moment. The folks who make big profits on the backs of the ill--insurance companies and greedy doctors--are fighting back. Their arsenal includes, as this shoddy episode indicates, an almost limitless collection of crude fictions and smears. And we can expect more of the same as the debate opens up in the US: our first-class, universally accessible healthcare system is their worst nightmare come true. Because it works.
UPDATE: (March 30) Reader "brat" tells us how the US healthcare system functions for those without means:
On US Health care:
My mom used to live in rural PA. In late December her colon ruptured, spewing air, fecal matter and infection into her abdomen. She was misdiagnosed, and then went without treatment for a week.
Finally, on January 5th she was routed to the local rural PA hospital, which had no gastroenterologist on staff or infectious disease specialist (in the 5 county system). She was then given a proper diagnosis, but was continued to be cared for by the local system (I suspect so they could keep the medicare $$$).
At one point she was put on a portable heart monitor because she was at - risk for a "heart event." Too bad it didn't have any batteries in it (this was not discovered until almost a day later).
Yes, she SHOULD have been transported to a facility with more sophisticated care. But she's elderly, female and living in rural PA and the local medical system wanted to cash in on Medicare. So, after 2 1/2 months of horrible care, I've been able to move her out. But I nearly had to stand on my head to make it happen.
The entire situation was a nightmare. The current US system of care is broken--and favors the well-off. My mom's situation was akin to "Sicko" meets "Deliverance" with a few moments of John Waters thrown in for good measure.
UPDATE: (March 30) Another account of the superior American system, by reader "Sophia":
I live in USA, having grown up in England. My dad was a patient at UCLA Medical Center in LA. He had comprehensive private health insurance, and this hospital is considered top-notch. He died there after 6 weeks of the most mediocre and mismanaged care in the hands of this institution and its doctors. It was a constant fight on my part with the health insurance company for each and every phase of his care, as most times they refused to cover the cost for even standard common-sense procedures. Worse was the apathy of the doctors, most of whom seemed more interested in their hefty paycheck than ensuring my dad received even minimal attention from them, which he did not. The so-called intensive care wards were filthy, ill-kept and chaotic.
In contrast to this nightmare I went through with my dad in USA, my brother had a serious illness in the UK, from which he also died, but not before receiving over a year of exemplary medical attention under the NHS, including weekly home visits by a Consultant specialist (that's the highest grade for a UK doctor) and an RN in the last 3 months of his life, and prescriptions delivered to his home as he could not get out of bed and had chosen to manage at home before ending his last week at a local Marie Curie hospice (completely free).
US healthcare for those who HAVE insurance is fifth-rate. My experience is proof that private health care panders to GREED AND PROFITS alone.
I have had my share of inept medical care in USA, coupled with a constant battle with insurance companies to cover procedures that were basic. I've ended up with thousands to pay out of my pocket, and I'm one of the lucky ones with my company covering of my health insurance premiums. Before that I was paying over $500 monthly myself for this US mediocrity.
The NHS operates on the premise that health care is a right, and that there needs to be a baseline emphasis on preventive medicine. The US private system relies on people being ill, and staying ill because its premise is INCOME above all else. I'm fed up hearing people defending the latter system.
Posted by Dr.Dawg at 10:53 AM