I try not to pay too much attention to the outside world as it just makes me foam at the mouth with righteous indignation. I don’t know what possessed me to start reading the NYT on a regular basis again, but here I am, keeping up with the world and occasionally wanting to kick it in the nuts.

Like this. This article embodies everything that is wrong with privatized health care.

#1: People can, and do, take a “D.I.Y.” approach to their own health.  This makes me nuts. Every time I see a prescription drug advertised on television, I want to defenestrate myself. If the drug is something you should be considering, your doctor will tell you so since they spent upwards of eight years studying medicine and are well-informed about your condition and your treatment options. If you don’t think your doctor knows what s/he’s talking about, go see a different one! It’s that easy! Even with an HMO, you can do it! Telling your doctor what drugs you should be taking is as asnine as telling your mechanic that you know what parts he should use to fix your car. No one does the latter, why do people do the former? Why does our society lead people to believe that they know more about medicine than doctors do?

I’d like to wag some fingers in the general direction of the television news industry and the constant state of fear that it serves to instill. Every freaking night there’s some story about “your health may be at risk!” and it’s all crap like “Don’t let your doctor not give you a flu shot.” “They tell you that you don’t really need an extra kidney, but it’s all lies!” “Have your drinking water tested for magic blueberry disease!”

So. People are filled with this crackpot idea that they know what they’re doing. They ask for prescription drugs by name. Some people even have enough hubris to go and diagnose others. I have epilepsy and I’ve had total strangers ask me “Have you tried Keppra?” No. No I effin haven’t because my DOCTOR did not think that it would be the right drug to effectively treat me. I don’t care if your sister is on it and she loves it. I don’t care if your dog recommends it. Until my DOCTOR asks me if I want to try a new drug, nothin’ doing.

In this article, the main culprit is at-home testing. So you can test yourself at home for conditions that, if you have them, require medical treatment. Right. Because it’s best to do this without any sort of medical fall-back plan for when you find out that you really do have magic blueberry disease and that you need to get raspberry pills to treat it.  Then you end up in the position where you’re desperately trying to find raspberry pills and have to, egads, tell your doctor about it because YOU are not authorized to write prescriptions.

#2: The insurance companies’ policy that pre-existing conditions are not covered serves to re-inforce #1 and drive people to total insanity.  Even worse is what happens when you don’t have any insurance to begin with.  This situation from the NYT article is exactly the situation that I find myself in:

 Now largely recovered, her primary concern is whether she will be viewed as a health insurance liability for the future.
“I don’t want to have to work for a big business just to get insurance,” she said. “This could be determining what I can do for my whole life.”

My disease has already determined my life for me. I have the options of selling-out and getting insurance (and even then, I worked for a big business and was told that epilepsy related expenses would not be covered 100%) or shelling out hundreds upon hundreds of dollars every month for medication, and at least a grand a year in doctors’ bills.This is the reality of what it means to have a pre-existing condition. Even when I do get insurance, there is no guarantee that it will cover all (or even any) of these expenses. And that really, really sucks.

Cost should not be the primary consideration when deciding on a course of treatment, or whether or not to be screened for a potentially serious illness. I’m not saying that cost is irrelevant – I’ve certainly declined non-essential treatment based on cost – but that it should not be the first and foremost decider of one’s options as a patient. The decision should come down to what the patient and hir doctor believe is going to be the most effective, and not what’s going to be the most cost effective. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go and order some treatment online for my magic blueberry disease. 


Hear Ye! Heare Ye!

February 6, 2008

I may as well tell you now, so you don’t hear this from some ill-reputed source. I am strongly considering applying to grad school.  I hoped it wouldn’t come to this. I had sincerely wished to go my whole life without having to get a Masters, but I can see no other viable options wherein I may receive health insurance and maintain a small shred of my dignity.  And oh yeah, get a job that pays well enough so that I can pay back the loans I still have from my undergrad degree. Turns out you need a Masters for that.

 I can only hope when I’m eventually done with this, I will be the prettiest wench of them all.  Thank you, Married to the Sea. You said it better than I ever could.


Breaking out of Foucault.

February 5, 2008

I spent the month of January moving and taking care of some unfinished legal business, which meant that I tried my hardest not to think. About anything. It was, in some ways, a glorious month. However, to make up for it, I have embarked on a quest of intellectual ridiculousness.  You probably could see it coming. I have started reading Foucault’s Discipline and Punish while Netflixing Season 2 of Prison Break.  

While the issues of the commodification of the body in the prison system are more applicable to Season 1, I don’t care, Michael Scofield is totally my secret boyfriend and I consider all of his be-tattooed activities to be important research.  Also: reading philosophy is sexy as hell. I want someone to dominate the micro-physics of my power economy, oh boy, do I ever.Moving on! Some thoughts thus far!

Chapter 1, The body of the condemned, discusses mostly the pre-Enlightenment policies of public execution.  This, clearly, does not relate to our beloved Fox River crew directly. However, it is interesting to note the change in societal ideals that our executions are now held in the utmost secrecy. What used to be a public display, serving to unite the populace in condemnation for the criminal, is now hidden away from public viewing entirely. The only witnesses invited to an execution are the press and those chosen, not by the state, but by the condemned man himself. (1) It is now considered the highest punishment that the condemned be completely removed from society, rather than having to face its judgement head-on. (2) 

The state has also been removed from the process. Instead of an identifiable executioner, the process is now completely mechanized and sterile. The actual procedure for a lethal injectionis as medically simple as a blood transfusion, except of course, for the end result. Of course, in the case of Lincoln Burrows, it was to be the electric chair – which is a step more gruesome, but still a far cry from the drawing and quartering that was favored for regicide (3) in seventeenth centruy France.  On this move towards sterility in capital punishment: 

 Today a doctor must watch over those condemned to death, right up to the last moment – thus juxtaposing himself as the agent of welfare, as the alleviator, within the official whose task it is to end life.  This is worth thinking about.  When the moment of execution approaches, the patients are injected with tranquilizers. A utopia of judicial reticence: take away life, but prevent the patient from feeling it; deprive the prisoner of all rights, but do not inflict pain; impose penalties free of all pain.  

It is a paradoxical situation that our legal system has created: to avoid becoming murderers by association (for what is capital punishment, really, but legalized murder in the old “eye for an eye” system?), we’ve set up a situation so filled with ritual that it is not unlike any other medical “procedure.” We’ve even got doctors! How bizarre is that!  One of the first things a doctor must pledge is to do no harm, and here they are setting up the system that allows a “patient” (note that the condemned is no longer referred to here as a prisoner, but as a patient, again, as if this were a simple medical procedure) to be put to death. It should be noted that the doctor is not the one who pushes the button to finally kill the prisoner, but that seems like an arbitrary detail in the whole setup.

And, as we know from Lincoln Burrows, a doctor must give a patient a physical before an execution may be performed because the prisoner must be healthy before the state can kill him. A relevant detail in Season 1, where Michael feeds him a pill to induce the stomach flu so that Dr. Tancredi has no choice but to delay the execution for 24 hours, thus giving Michael an extra day to complete the escape plan.

The morality involved is very complicated: it wouldn’t be “humane” to execute someone who was already suffering, since the point of this is to distance the prison system from actual suffering as much as possible. A prisoner can only be executed if he is in good health and not already suffering from any kind of pain – besides, of course, from the mental anguish of his impending death. And that will have to be saved for another post, because it’s time for me to go load up another episode!

1) Yes, I know that women are also capable of crimes that are punished by the death penalty, and that women are sentenced to death, blah blah blah. Until I start analyzing Monster, I am, to my own chagrin, sticking with masculine pronouns.  
2) Or head-off, in the case of the guillotine.
3) Ok, so the President’s brother isn’t exactly regicide, but I think it’s analogously close. Celebrities are the closest we’ve got to aristocracy these days.  Even though the u-SOFA lacks a monarchy proper, our current President is the son of a previous President and one of the leading Democratic candidates this year is the wife of a previous President. C’mon! If that’s not royalty, it’s damn close enough.