Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hot Air

I never took the global warming debate very seriously, so I did not follow it all that closely. I do, however, remember some general turning points. Back in the 90’s, the Clinton Administration signed onto the Kyoto accords, an international treaty which declared with astonishing certainty that (1) the general temperature of the earth’s atmosphere is on the rise and (2) the cause of this is human activity such as burning of fossil fuels and the greenhouse effect therefrom. The Kyoto accord was an agreement by the signatory nations to somehow limit this activity in an attempt to halt or reverse the effect. The accord also extended exemptions to “developing” nations and imposed most of the heavy lifting on the United States.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Taking it in the Rear – Part II

In my attempts thus far to provide anecdotal support for the case against government run health care, I have talked about my generally positive experience with the U.S. healthcare system. Of course the other side of the coin is all the negatives of socialized medicine in places like England and Canada where people have to wait months for surgeries, interventions, treatments and even medical tests which we take for granted in the USA. The results, such as significantly lower survival rates for cancer and other serious illnesses, are well documented.

Of course, the amount of time I have spent in England or Canada can be expressed in terms of hours, so I have not had the pleasure of personal exposure to their public health systems. Italy is another matter, though I am reticent to criticize the beloved homeland of my fathers. Indeed, there are some good things I can say about Italian health care. They have some excellent medical schools. They have also conducted some decent research which has resulted in medical innovations. I remember last year translating some Italian articles for a friend of a friend who was almost fatally injured in a roadway accident in Salerno, Italy. The article discussed the excellent care he received from Italian orthopedic surgeon Antonino Valente, and the innovative techniques used to bring about an incredibly speedy recovery, which was acknowledged in congratulatory letters from the U.S. Consul and from U.S. doctors who provided follow-up treatment. And in the interest of full disclosure, I must mention my father’s positive experience with a back operation in Rome (for which he did not pay a dime because he was also an Italian citizen), shortly after having had a less-than-positive outcome months earlier at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Based on the above information relayed to me by others, I suppose there are some things to boast about Italian medical care, but my personal experience tells me that it leaves much to be desired. I have personally visited relatives at Italian hospitals and found a barracks-like atmosphere, with three and four beds to a room. Very often, patients’ families have to bring toilet paper, soap and other personal hygiene items that are routinely supplied by U.S. hospitals.

Taking it in the Rear – Part I

As evidenced by my last two posts, health care has been on my mind as of late, as it is indeed on many people’s minds. I can approach the issue from a philosophical standpoint and provide reasons why I believe the free market and competition have given us the best health care on the planet (despite its flaws), and why the last thing we need is more government involvement, which inevitably invites inefficiency and abuse, as well as the mediocrity and poor service that are inherent in a one-size-fits-all government operation.

But I also have plenty of anecdotal reasons to buttress my philosophical position, as to why the free market works and the public option does not. What follows is one of the few negative experiences I have had with the private system, but in the end it turned out okay. I posted this story last December at a blog called “Down with Absolutes”, where I served as one of the few conservative voices amidst a sea of lefties.

Nationalized Health Care? Say What?

I have thankfully spent precious little time as a patient in a hospital. I got my tonsils out when I was six years old, and I don’t remember much from the experience other than being in a good bit of pain the morning after the operation. The discomfort was immediately mitigated by getting to eat all the ice cream and Jell-O I wanted.

Other than that, I don’t think I was ever admitted to a hospital until I was forty-nine. That winter, I caught a nasty cold that seemed to stick around longer than usual and even developed into an ear infection, or so I thought. It got to the point where I had difficulty hearing in my right ear, but being the stubborn and clueless male that I am, I ignored it for a couple of months before Susan persuaded me to see an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist.

On my first visit, the ENT took out a handy little suction hose and pulled out what seemed to be a crusty buildup that had accumulated on my ear drum. When this seemed to provide little or no benefit, he administered an audiogram, which confirmed a hearing loss in the right ear. He then ordered up a multitude of tests, most of which I can’t remember, but there were several tests for meniere's disease. lyme disease or other maladies which might have damaged my cochlear nerves. Already suspecting that this was the case, he put me on steroids in hopes of either stopping or reversing the damage. At the same time, he also ordered up an MRI of the brain, mentioning that in certain very rare instances, such hearing losses are caused by something called a vestibular schwannoma (also known as an acoustic neuroma), which is a tumor wrapped around the auditory nerve between the ear and the brain. The ENT reassured me that such tumors are extremely rare and he highly doubted I had one, but he felt compelled to order the MRI just in case. Long story short, I got a call from the ENT a few days later, asking me to come back into his office and advising that I no longer needed to take the steroids. The MRI was positive.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Weather and People's Health

-- Mrs. Eynsford-Hill: I do hope we won’t have any unseasonable cold spells; they bring on so much influenza. And the whole of our family is susceptible to it.

-- Eliza Doolittle: My Aunt died of influenza, or so they said. But it’s my belief they done the old woman in.
After thoroughly training Eliza Doolittle in culture, refinement and speech, Henry Higgins was ready to test her ability to maneuver in high society without betraying her humble upbringing and Cockney accent. As a safeguard, he had one proviso: “She's to keep to two subjects: the weather and everybody's health.” These memorable lines from My Fair Lady have perhaps contributed to the almost proverbial notion that “the weather and people’s health” are the last polite and safe topics for conversation, as opposed to, for instance, religion and politics.

Alas, as Eliza discovered, I am not sure either topic is safe anymore. This day and age, even an innocent comment about a delightfully mild winter might provoke a diatribe about global warming, caused by the evils of corporations and the American way of life, which are responsible for excess emissions of carbon dioxide--that newest of pollutants that also happens to be what we exhale.

And speaking of exhaling, people’s health is no longer a safe topic either, as it has the potential to devolve into a debate about doctors, health insurance and national health care. I have known this for a while, but it was brought home to me recently on Facebook. It all started last week when my niece posted the following:
No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.