Shoot the wounded?

John Taylor: October 19, 20121 Comments

Not all mistakes are fatal. But when they turn out to be – would you be among those saying, “It was your own dang fault. Serves you right”? Consider a column in the Sunday (10/14/12) New York Times in which Nicholas Kristof chronicled how a friend opted to forgo health insurance coverage during a midlife crisis. Suddenly, at age 51, symptoms surfaced that led him to a Seattle emergency department and the discovery that he had advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to his bones. He was equally consumed by regret.

It was a heart-wrenching story, partly authored by Kristof and partly by his friend, Scott Androes. It touched on numerous hot-button topics in the political world of healthcare.

  • Insurance is expensive. Going without it is even more expensive. When Androes’ tab at Swedish Medical Center rose to about half a million dollars, the hospital knocked it down to little more than $1,000. He became a “charity care” patient. Every insured American paid his costs in their premiums and other expenses.
  • Would regular checkups have averted this crisis? Would the half million spent on his care, at the right juncture, averted a staggering march toward death and through self-recrimination?
  • The ideologies of President Obama and Mitt Romney. Kristoff contends in the Romney world, people like Androes would remain uninsured and unable to buy coverage because of a family history of cancer. Under Romney, he wrote, “this is a tragic but necessary byproduct of requiring Americans to take personal responsibility for their lives.” In the Obamacare world, the problem of millions of uninsured Americans is being addressed “inelegantly by forcing people like (Androes) to buy insurance beginning in 2014. Some will grumble about the ‘mandate’ and the insurance cost, but it will save lives.”
  • Government routinely compensates for society’s misjudgments and sloppy decision-making. That’s why we have traffic lights, guardrails, seatbelts, airport pat-downs, fire alarms, 911 operators, (fewer and fewer) emergency departments and credentialing of medical professionals.
  • Compassion vs. cost-cutting. Prevention vs. paying the price. Expectations vs. education. Brother’s keeper vs. take care of your own business. Single payer vs. rugged individualist.


The day after the Times story was published, the cancer patient died. Kristof, in a subsequent story, said research indicates one American dies every 20 minutes from lack of health insurance. He also wrote of the email vitriol that he received from those “savagely unsympathetic” to his friend’s plight.

Last July, I wrote a blog in this space under the headline: “Sick: Your Own Dang Fault?” I focused on the incivility in public discourse about health reform. Nastiness rules. Unfortunately, a few readers mistakenly thought I was attributing blame, rather than recording what’s posted, sadly, on so very many electronic message boards.

The original Kristof story was headlined: “A Possibly Fatal Mistake.” Given the poisonous tenor of some political and Internet debate, I fear a future article might be titled: “We Shoot Our Wounded.”

One response to Shoot the wounded?

Another grest post!!

Another grest post!!

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