Thursday, August 13, 2009

A few truths about healthcare (Part 2)

I know I've said this before but did you know there were more doctors in 11th century England (per capita) than there are in the US today?

Before getting smug about the standard of medical practice in 11th century England, ask yourself what will be thought of our medicine in AD 3009. They'll think we were pretty barbaric, too.

This lack of doctors is one of the things that pushes healthcare costs up. I am not suggesting that standards at medical schools be dropped, but merely that more people who meet them be given places. I still find it rather worrying that vetrinary school students who drop out often become doctors.

America has a wonderful schichophrenia about doctors. On the one hand, we've undeservedly put them on peditals, while on another we're appalled by the scale of malpractice, unreasonable demands (one reportedly asked for a helicopter to take him from hometo the hospital so he didn't have to wait in traffic), and often complain about our treatment.

Two generations of Marcus Welby, MD, Ben Casey, Doctor Kildare, Quincy, Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman, ER, House and other TV shows that glorify the medical profession have given us this revernce for doctors. Only Scrubs injects a degree of reality into American medical care. Personally, I'd like to see a show about the men who install and repair air conditioning or keep the sewers running because they contribute more and more often to the quality of life of more people than doctors do.

The serious part

Why do we think we’d make better healthcare choices that a government agency?

Forget the individual freedom argument for a moment. Yes, you may have right to a degree of self-determination, but you’re not the only person in the world. Indeed, you’re not the only person in your family who might be affected by your cranky notion of what treatment you need. (I had an uncle who thought gin was the universal remedy.)

How competent are we to decide what care we need? (Forget that the government won’t do it any better; just answer the question).

This is an issue we should be debating with medical professionals, not politicians.

The old TV shows, and now the worldwide web has made phony experts of us all. How many of us would presume to debate aircraft maintenance procedures, or what a 777 needed done to it because it was burning a few quarts of oil more than usual?

I don’t have the answer to America’s healthcare problems and costs. However, I do know that the right discussions with the right people are not being held.

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