Swans Commentary » swans.com October 19, 2009  



Health Care Is A Human Right
Warfare Is A Human Wrong


by Martin Murie





(Swans - October 19, 2009)   The title of this piece, above, was Alison's poster at the Mad As Hell Doctors free clinic in Xenia, Ohio. The Mad Docors were from Portland, Oregon. We had the good fortune to help host them here in Xenia. Their next stop would be Detroit. Their intention is to stand forthrightly and adamantly in favor of Single Payer, known by its opponents as "Socialist Medicine."

A reporter from the Dayton Daily News was there with his camera. My sign read:


A woman from Worthington, Ohio, just north of Columbus, unfurled a huge umbrella that read SINGLE PAYER, repeated, all around the rim. The photographer took our picture and in the course of nearly two hours I had ample opportunity to talk with the photographer and the volunteer woman and others as they entered and left the glass doors of the clinic.

The photographer followed Alison around and her photo appeared in next day's Dayton Daily News along with a comment by her in support of Single Payer.

The Mad As Hell Doctors pulled off a triumph of organization. Contacting ahead of time, they managed to organize nurses and doctors in each city for help. One of the nurses who talked to Alison said she was a "Grannie."

Starting from Portland they visited Spokane, Denver, Fort Collins, Salt Lake City, and other cities I've forgotten. One of the doctors from Portland had forgotten some of the cities too. A whirlwind trip, must have been exhausting, and they were only half way to Washington, D.C. They will hold free clinics in Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York City, and other cities on the way to the final goal, Washington, D.C.

The photographer has a few acres in Montgomery County (Xenia is in Greene County) and is a reporter for the Dayton paper. Interesting man, trying to grow organic vegetables, wanted advice about how to deal with insect pests. I recommended ahes, oil spray, or simply picking insects by hand, and told him that Alison and I raised goats in the Adirondack region of New York State, grew veggies, ate snowshoe rabbits and "partridge," aka ruffed grouse, and goat meat. Alison made goat milk yogurt. The goats had to be milked every single day, but we got used to that.

I had a chance to put in a word about war. In combat soldiers are scared to death, but have license to kill, a weird combination.

At home that evening Alison and I watched the DVD created by the Mad As Hell Doctors. It gave a thorough take on the pressures that target their profession. Malpractice insurance is expensive, but they have to have it. They prescribe unnecessary tests on their patients, not because these tests are needed, but as a buffer against a law suit from a dissatisfied patient.

Another expense is paperwork. We all know about that. Another, and this is interesting, the temptation to sell out to pharmas, prescribe their pills to patients. A good chunk of the pharma's expenses in their search for maximum profit is corralling doctors, convincing them of the validity of their product. I witnessed a perfect example of this while a patient in a VA hospital in Oakland, California. The pharma actually was allowed to organize inside the hospital, videos, the whole works, touting a new medication.

One of the doctors interviewed in the DVD told us that new medicines don't have to work better than the products already on the market; they only have to work better than a placebo.

This video was a look behind the scenes, about collaboration in doubtful enterprises that goes on routinely in doctor-pharma interactions. We all know that pharmas make huge profits. The video was a brief peek at research done mainly by public institutions, universities, federal government organizations, and then bought by the pharmas.

One of the features of the night show in the clinic was an opportunity for anyone to get up for a one minute rant on why they're mad as hell.

I asked a doctor in the clinic if it was okay if we stand at the doors with support for Single Payer posters. He referred me to a volunteer, who was a local volunteer in overall charge of the proceedings. I asked her the same question. She hesitated, then said it was certainly all right with her, but the property was owned by Greene County and they might "kick us out." I told her we were used to that and we would take our chances. She said she was "used to being kicked out too," and wished us luck.

It turned out that no county official showed.

Here is a letter to the editor in the latest copy of the weekly Anderson Valley Advertiser, whose editor, Bruce Anderson, exhaustively covers local events. The paper has a long list of regular contributors and none of them hold back from on-the-ground reporting.

Here's the heart of the letter:

It has been an interesting summer of politics on healthcare reform. We've seen and heard plenty of nonsense, with greed and corruption providing the framework, and ignorance and fear filling the air. These human shortcomings are not new, but history shows that they can be overcome.

Meanwhile, single-payer national health insurance will eventually prevail in this country, simply because it is the only affordable and sustainable system in the long run.

The good news is that the national conversation on healthcare has begun.

The letter writer advises us to be patient. Single payer will eventually replace the unworkable private, for-profit system we now have. I balk at this advice, simply because we can't stand aside waiting for that to happen. People die every day from lack of access to healthcare, especially the techniques that doctors and nurses are anxious to offer to create healthy bodies before irreversible symptoms show up.

Remember that movie, Network? Before the announcer is gunned down he shouts into the mike that we should all open our windows and shout into the night, "We are mad as hell and aren't going to take it any more."

The Mad As Hell Doctors are a blessing given to us from Portland, Oregon. They're going for broke. Let's join them.

Tomorrow we go to the Saturday antiwar demo in Yellow Springs. We are watching, with some impatience, the glacial advance of antiwar movements, but find hope in hearing about local protests. Last Saturday a man from a town of 800 population stood with us for a while at the demo. He said there was a protest movement that met regularly, noon to one, in his town. He was one of them.

Later in the evening Alison and I watched a TV show about stress. The key biologist had a messy beard and tangled hair, and had studied baboons for years. The band he'd become too well acquainted with -- he admitted that he didn't really like baboons -- got in the habit of raiding human garbage. The alpha males had the choice pieces and all they wanted to eat. TB was in the garbage. All the alpha males died. The tribe was suddenly bereft of hierarchy -- each individual knowing exactly where he, she, stood in the elaborate arrangement of privilege. The remaining baboons turned communal, friendly to each other, grooming each other more thoroughly. They became more like gorillas, those mighty, but community-minded beasts of mountain jungles. If this can happen to baboons . . . can it happen to us?

I am not advocating removal of the elite. De-fanging would do the trick: curtail their privileges, put them on modest salary, get them off their worship of the great God, profit.


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About the Author

Martin Murie on Swans (with bio).



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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art15/murie81.html
Published October 19, 2009