I finally got around to watching Michael Moore’s “Sicko” last night, curled up on my new chair in the den. I had some mixed feelings—the chair was great, the film was a bit of a disappointment.
Let’s talk about the film. I say it was disappointing first because I simply didn’t think it was up to Moore’s standards as a film maker. It was lacking in the humor and sense of the absurd—although I must admit that a small band of travelers setting out for Cuba in a tiny boat was pretty ridiculous, a kind of “Owl and the Pussycat” moment, I thought.
Certainly the question asked by the film is a penetrating one: why can’t Americans adopt the idea of health care for everyone with the same generosity they embrace in providing police protection, education, and fire and disaster services? The answer, of course, is the intrusion of big business and inflated profits in drugs, health care, insurance, and related industries.
I don’t think there’s anything shocking in either the question or the answer. And I do believe that the US medical establishment asking a patient to chose between $12,000 to reattach a ring finger or $30,000 for a middle finger, or the practice of dumping indigenous patients out on the street like litters of unwanted kittens—these are shocking and unacceptable practices for me to embrace ethically.
However, to think that the whole of the US medical system is profit-driven and thus unfeeling and ungenerous—that’s just not so. If I’ve had any purpose in maintaining this blog over the past three months, it is to illustrate that there is indeed a culture of people in our country who are skilled and dedicated health care providers, from the quiet lady who empties the wastebaskets and scrubs out the bathroom, to the jolly Patty of the crazy hats who is generous with her hugs and her morning cup of coffee when I couldn’t make it down the hall, to the many skilled surgeons and doctors who have populated my life with dedication and consistent quality care.
Oh, I suppose there have been some not-so-heroic faces as well, but the ones I will remember all my life are the generous and truly loving ones I’ve met recently, those who stuck their noses in my room on Christmas to wish me a happy holiday, and those who come on home healthcare visits and patiently watch me walk up and down the hallway in my walker, count the number of leg lifts and knee bends I can do, and change the dressings on my incision sites.
I think, Michael, that it isn’t that Americans aren’t generous: I know that in my experience with US health care, the US workers give far more than they receive. If the issue is that if we took the money we spend individually for health care, medicine, and insurance and put it in a fund which would provide universal health care for everyone—would that work? That seems to me to be the real question—not whether the American spirit of generosity and love is equal to that of the Canadians, French, British, or Cubans.