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Socialized Medicine Kills
Here's how it works -- or, rather, doesn't -- in Scotland, from a Natalie Walker story in the Daily Record/UK:

POOR NHS treatment has led to almost half a million Scots dying in the last 30 years, a new study has revealed.

Doctors at Glasgow University found that between 1974 and 2003, a total of 462,000 people died in Scotland as a result of health service failings

It means Scotland has one of the highest avoidable death rates in western Europe.

The study examined the number of deaths caused by a lack of "timely and effective health care".

The vast majority of people - around 250,000 - who died due to inadequate or delayed treatment were heart or stroke patients.

Another 7300 had cancer and slightly more than 2000 were pneumonia patients.

The study revealed that avoidable deaths among men in Scotland over the time period was 176 for every 100,000 people.

Posted by aalkon at June 9, 2007 9:21 AM


Aw c'mon, who doesn't prefer avoidable death?

Posted by: Crid at June 9, 2007 7:13 AM

Instead of looking to other countries to see if socialized health care would work in America, we should really be examining how we view and use our current health care system. We are - after all - a unique country. I happen to think that socialized medicine will fail miserably, but it isn't because of other countries and their own failed socialized health care experiments.

Posted by: Pheisty at June 9, 2007 8:45 PM

If you look at countries with socialized medicine (Canada, the UK), there's often a terrible wait to get basic care.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 10, 2007 4:15 AM

Agreed, Amy. I know what you're saying. However, the scariest part of socialized medicine in America is that we are absolutely out of control with our health care. When it comes to Italians, the Swiss, or Scots, we need to realize that these people don't use health care like we do. They use it as more of a last resort. We use it as the first thing we do.

I'm not saying that it's bad to look at other countries and how their socialized medicine is working is isn't working. Because every time we do this, some liberal is going to find a study on Sweden and show you how well socialized health care does work. But there's no way of comparing us to Sweden, because we - as Americans - view our health care in a completely different way than they do.

For instance, Italians are much more likely to use homeopathic remedies FIRST, and then go to the doctor if it doesn't work out. Americans go to the doctor first, have tests run, try out three different meds, possibly have surgery, then, when none of that worked, THEN they will try the homeopath.

We are different than any other country when it comes to our health care. We need to effectively gauge what would happen if we had socialized health care by examining our current health care habits and views.

We're very unique in relation to the rest of the world, whether we realize it or not.

Posted by: Pheisty at June 10, 2007 5:15 AM

How exactly is the US so unique in relation to the rest of the world, that it can't learn and cherry pick useful tidbits of experience? Every country is unique, and every country does things a little differently, depending on its own culture, population, infrastructure, etc.

Just curious, Pheisty, have you ever actually travelled outside the US?

Posted by: Chrissy at June 10, 2007 6:46 AM

Has anybody seen Michael Moore's new movie yet? It's about health care. Any opinions?

Posted by: Chrissy at June 10, 2007 6:48 AM

There's no testing that shows homeopathic remedies work.

I've posted before on how the fact that many people get their healthcare paid through work is a negative and causes them to not care about the cost.

We should have a system like the system I have. I pay for my own health care, and I'm not in a pool with other employees with five children and a wife who get extra benefits - very unfair.

Health care should no longer be part of the workplace package. Pay your own, and you'll care about the cost.

Also, if there's national health care, who do you think pays? Notice the taxes in Sweden and other countries with socialized medicine.

How about you pay your way and I pay mine, and I don't pay for your five children, you do, instead of getting it as a bonus on all the backs of single workers employed with you?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 10, 2007 7:02 AM

Hey Chrissy, I too want to hear what people think about Moore's "Sicko." A (liberal) friend of mine invited me to go see it. As someone who spent a good bit of her college career decrying socialism, I feel she and I will walk away with very different experiences.

My ideas on health care (and government control) align fairly well with Amy's so no matter how many examples of "how great" socialized health care is it still bothers me fundamentally.

So...any more information specifically on other country's governmentally implemented health care would be great. I'd like to see the movie armed w/ information to present to my friend who thinks the government is the almighty, panacea-bearing Fairy Godmother!

Posted by: Gretchen at June 10, 2007 9:51 AM

"Pay your own, and you'll care about the cost."

...Yes, let the market do the work! Kinda how, when the cost of your college education goes from being "taken care of" to being "shit, I need some loans!" you magically begin caring a lot more. I calculated that the cost of each single class was $80. So when I felt too lazy to get my ass out of bed in the morning I thought "that's a lot of money to waste."

Similarly, if we were responsible for our own health care costs we'd rethink a lot of the end our costs would go down. Health care is vital but it's out-of-control-expensive. The solution isn't to rely on government intervention, though, it's to reevaluate why it's so expensive in the first place.

Posted by: Gretchen at June 10, 2007 9:58 AM

According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, this is what happens every year in our increasingly investor-owned healthcare system in the U.S.:

“Health care in the United States is not as safe as it should be -- and can be. At least 44,000 people, and perhaps as many as 98,000 people, die in hospitals EACH YEAR as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented, according to estimates from two major studies.”

[ALL CAPS added by Lena Cuisina]

Read the entire report here:

Multiply those numbers from the IOM report by 19, and you'll get an estimated 836,000 to 1,862,000 avoidable deaths in U.S. hospitals between 1974 and 2003. Maybe we should pay a little more attention to what's happening on this side of the Atlantic?

Posted by: Lena at June 10, 2007 10:31 AM

Lean, what would you say is the solution in terms of health-care policy?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 10, 2007 10:50 AM

"Lean, what would you say is the solution in terms of health-care policy?"

Before I give my answer, Amy, I'd like you to contact the press and the federal Deparment of Health and Human Services -- because I know they've all been waiting for this.

Obviously, avoidable deaths and other indicators of poor quality of care are observed across every type of financing system, among patients with every type of insurance coverage. Avoidable deaths are a problem with quality, not costs or financing. Changes in financing will not ensure that people will get adequate care. My humble opinion is that quality can be improved through interventions such as continuous clinical training and excellent hospital management practices. Again, this is not necessarily correlated with payment systems for physicians or hospitals.

Even the best hospitals are horribly unhealthy places to stay. I worked as a physical therapy assistant in a highly regarded hospital in the Bay Area when I was younger, and I saw patients with Harvard-trained physicians essentially rot to death. I will spare you the sordid details of what happens when a morbidly obese diabetic first gets an infected bedsore on her ass. What it can lead to, however, is multiple amputations, psychotic depression, and death -- again, with the best care available.

Health really isn't something that's produced by hospitals. It's something that's supported or destroyed by how we think, how we live, and how we treat each other. It's gay pride weekend in Los Angeles, and I went up to Weho yesterday with a friend who's been living most of his adult life in a wheelchair with a great sense of healthiness and dignity -- due in no small part to his loving family, and to the good neighbors in his assisted living facility. Anyway, in the middle of all the gay but potentially health-damaging revelry up there yesterday, I was really moved by the people out there on the street getting the word out about free hepatitis vaccinations and HIV testing, and trying to change cultural norms by giving the big thumbs down to methamphetamine and barebacking. If I have any "gay pride" at all, that would be where I find it.

I'm all gung-ho about this book lately, if you're interested:

"Prescription for a Healthy Nation: A New Approach to Improving Our Lives by Fixing Our Everyday World" by Tom Farley and Deborah A. Cohen.

Posted by: Lena at June 10, 2007 12:31 PM

Will you bring it with you later if it's not inconvenient? I still have to blog the last one you turned me onto, plus the ev psych conference, and two other books -- but I'm clearing the backlog little by little!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 10, 2007 12:40 PM

So...any more information specifically on other country's governmentally implemented health care would be great.

My experience of the British NHS was entirely positive. My daughters were born in the system &mdash we had one drop-everything emergency, and my wife and I both had some elective surgery with no wait. All outcomes excellent. HOWEVER, I have to qualify that by admitting that we lived in the catchment area of a major Central London teaching hospital, and the population density around there (Fitzrovia) was minuscule. They practically begged us to find some complaint that they could use for teaching. I heard just a month ago that the hospital is now closed, due for demolition. If you asked somebody living in, say, Bolton, you'd no doubt get a different story.

Posted by: Stu "E Inglés" Harris at June 10, 2007 4:34 PM

Thanks, Stu! (and that "country's" should be "countries'"...couldn't leave my mistake alone!)

Posted by: Gretchen at June 10, 2007 8:05 PM

In Toronto (the biggest city in Canada), there are oodles of hospitals, especially in the downtown area. Certain of these have better reputations than others, so you avoid the not-so-good ones. I've redirected the ambulance I was in one time to take me to one I liked.

My experiences have been:
-very long waits in the emergency waiting rooms
-long delays in getting appointments with specialists (sometimes 6 months till you get an appointment)

Otherwise, it's pretty good. One thing you have to do is educate yourself about any procedures they may want to do and decide if they are in your best interest. And there is always the option of a second and third opinion, if there is no hurry on getting something done.

Posted by: Chrissy at June 11, 2007 1:29 PM

"very long waits in the emergency waiting rooms"

I've experienced this here in the U.S. And it's not because the hospital is necessarily's because people use the ER like it's a primary care physician's office. There are several Boston area hospitals I would never step foot in for fear of bleeding to death on the waiting room floor... because there are 20 illegal aliens (oh I'm sorry, "undocumented workers") in front of me.

Next time I'll just wave my Harvard Pilgrim Health Care card around...

Posted by: Gretchen at June 11, 2007 1:50 PM

That's the same reason there are long waits in the emergency rooms here. People come in with a runny nose or something else that is trivial and clog up the whole system. They should be going to a walk-in clinic, or their own family doctor for something like that, but I guess since they're not paying for it and they're hypochondriacs, they don't mind waiting for 6 hours.

Posted by: Chrissy at June 13, 2007 7:56 AM

Here is posting as me... Not sure why.

If the 'traveling outside of the US' question was directed at me, yes, I have travelled outside of the US. I was in Italy a little over a year and have many friends and family members there.

And I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that this information wasn't valuable. That was wrong of me.

Posted by: Joey @ Pheistyblog at July 14, 2007 10:40 AM

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