I used to think that being a dyed-in-the-wool Communist was by far the best illustration of a “true believer.” After all, many of those whom Stalin purged were praising him as they were executed, and Ethel Rosenberg, who could have saved her life, and not turned her sons into orphans, preferred to die for the cause, rather than to admit her obvious guilt.
But, the obsession that Americans have with health care in the abstract, happily blinding themselves to the reality of how terrible it can be in practice, is definitely in contention.
Many of us have horror stories involving being admonished by medical personnel that risky invasive procedures must be immediately undertaken as the only method to save the patient’s life, only to refuse such procedures, and have the patient survive unscathed. And, such misadventures occur with equal measure—if not more so—with “highly-rated” hospitals and physicians.
It seems worthwhile to examine just how this sad state of affairs could have developed.
Prior to the early part of the 20th century, there were hundreds of medical schools teaching all kinds of medical theories, yet, by 1910, the number would be reduced to just over sixty, and they would all be teaching the only accepted model: Allopathic medicine.
Allopathy is a system of medical practice that aims to combat disease by use of remedies producing effects different from those produced by the disease under treatment. In other words, the idea is to counteract disease symptoms.
For example, if the symptom is constipation, a drug will be administered to move the bowels. If the symptom is diarrhea, a treatment will be administered to prevent the bowels from moving. If the patient has a headache, some compound will be given to combat the pain, and so on. For the most part, this is palliative care: the symptoms are suppressed, and we have been conditioned to believe that if the symptoms disappear, the patient is cured.
Of course, there is an allure here, since if the patient truly were cured, the symptoms would disappear. But notice how the idea has been spun: Cause and effect have been reversed!
More than that, the underlying basis for the condition is generally ignored, or if one is found, it still is itself usually not the root cause. A patient can exhibit various symptoms, and is then diagnosed with some form of diabetes. Fine, but wouldn’t it be of interest to determine what caused the diabetes?
As allopathic medicine is usually practiced, your symptoms are dutifully recorded, and many expensive tests are run, until your disease can be named. This name becomes your diagnosis, and treatment must follow a strict protocol, this treatment sometimes leading to the patient’s death. Often, the disease is not properly diagnosed, so the wrong treatment is given, but this is usually not recognized, since treatment must follow a strict protocol. Could there be a problem here?
If a cure IS effected, the doctor always claims credit, even though at best his role has been palliative, while in reality, the patient has always healed himself. As such, the doctor is virtually deified, and the desperate patient feels that he has no choice but to comply. If the outcome is not positive, the survivors are told that “we did all we could for him,” even as the sardonic implications of this statement are missed by all concerned.
Unfortunately, the government has compounded the problem. Sensing that health care could be politicized, they have jumped in with both feet, and, characteristically, have made it even worse. With every regulation have come cunning ways for people to rip off the system, along with ever more compliant practitioners who dare not do anything outside the rule book. Better a dead patient than getting written up.
Efforts at social engineering, by invoking affirmative action into med school admission policies, have lowered the quality of physicians, but the schools are so deep into the Fed’s pockets that they can hardly speak up. Add to that rules favoring in-state applicants and wildly different standards across the many states, it is likely that a 3.0 GPA graduate of an undistinguished state college with maybe a 24 MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) score can gain admission, even if these same credentials would not pass muster in other states. If you think medical board exams protect the public, you must also believe that the bar exam lets only qualified attorneys practice.
But, while the demand for health care increases, the supply of home-grown physicians gets tighter, so less desirable residencies—and that’s a lot of them—are falling increasingly to foreign doctors, generally unfamiliar with the culture and expectations of health care consumers. They do bring the advantage of being willing to work cheap, however.
As clear as all this is, the health care true believers will have none of it, and the beat goes on.