Sunday, August 27, 2006

Dead Meat

A lot of Europeans often go on and on about how much better healthcare systems are around here: they are so much more equitable as they are free and universal, while in the US, which is barbaric and inhumane, people die on the street and are turned away from emergency rooms if they do not have a credit card.
That's clearly a load of tosh. European healthcare systems are obviously not free, and as far as I know people are not turned away from emergency rooms in the US. Additionally European-style socialized systems also tend to be extremely inefficient. This creates somewhat hidden discrimination in two respects:
  • If you are relatively healthy you get all the care you need but as soon as something serious crops up things often go pear-shaped, and at that point,
  • If you are rich you can afford to go private (either at home or abroad), but if you're not you are as likely as not going to be stuck in a sometimes fatal waiting list.
I don't doubt that the US system needs to be reformed, but at least the inequalities of the US system (which are much less pronounced than what most Europeans would like to think) are transparent and recognize a reality which Europe has simply swept under the carpet.
For instance a while back, in Italy, my 83-year-old grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer (after various misdiagnoses), and was put on a waiting list of several months to get the operation needed to remove the tumor. The wait would in all probability have been fatal. As she could afford it she paid for the necessary procedure and did it immediately as a private patient, and now, thank God, it seems the issue has been resolved conclusively. In this respect I highly recommend watching a tragi-comic preview of an upcoming documentary, entitled Dead Meat. The producers say:
Dead Meat is a 25 minute short film which shows the reality of health care under Canada's socialized medical system: Canadians wait ... and wait ... and wait. ... And sometimes they die while waiting for free government health care.

The filmmakers are currently in production on a feature-length film addressing health care in the U.S. and Canada slated for release in late 2006. As an interim offering, they have produced this short film which debuted at the Liberty Film Festival in West Hollywood, CA on Oct 21, 2005.
Many Canadians who have never been really sick are supportive of their system. In fact, the system caters to the healthy majority with free primary care doctor appointments, flu shots, etc. while depriving the truly sick - often the elderly - of timely medical treatment that is often more expensive. Political expediency dictates that health care dollars are spent where the votes are: the healthy majority - while across Canada, hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people quietly languish in pain in their homes on long waiting lists for treatment.
Certainly there are pockets of excellence in the Canadian health care system - and not everyone waits. If a person is in the process of having a heart attack, they get immediate treatment. However, any treatment deemed 'elective' - meaning that possible death is not imminent - often entails a wait. Cancer biopsies, MRI scans, heart bypasses, cataract operations, and hip replacements all involve lengthy waits for many Canadians.
Please watch it! It is truly compelling. Incredibly there are still people who find something to brag about when comparing universal public healthcare to the US system. I wonder what these people would consider a failure...

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