Snake-Oil Shamans Resist Change

Article excerpt

Now that health-care reform is temporarily dead in Washington, we have yet another chance to examine just how we want to shape this massive industrial complex. Just the mention of reform sends thousands of lobbyists with millions of dollars scrambling to buy off our legislators. Shouldn't this make us suspicious? If these special interests are willing to throw that kind of money away to maintain the status quo, shouldn't we be asking why?

Obviously, the people burning their money are trying to protect their future earnings from our illness and suffering. But just what has their system of profiteering off our diseases really done for us? How about a report card on how well our country is doing with the most advanced system of health care in the world?

David O. Weber, a health-care journalist, has compiled a comprehensive list of health statistics in a recent article in Health Care Forum. After reading Weber's data, extracted from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, one must ask if the doctors of today mimic their counterparts from the past - that is shamans or witch-doctors, rattling beads, blowing smoke and taking credit when we miraculously get well. Here are some of the facts:

Babies born in 16 foreign countries have longer life expectancies than U.S. babies. The United States ranks 23rd in infant mortality. American babies have the greatest chance of dying from an infectious disease or a parasite than babies in all other developed countries.

The rate of heart attacks in the United States surpasses 11 European countries, Japan and Canada. America is fifth in deaths per capita from lung cancer. The United States has the highest incidence of breast cancer in the world.

One in 250 people in this country are infected with AIDS, giving the United States 40 percent of all of the AIDS cases in the world. The United States ranks fifth in deaths of pedestrians and motorists. Eleven other developed countries have lower death rates from cirrhosis and liver disease than we do.

Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in our country. Murder ranks as the 10th leading cause of death in this country, with 2,000 Americans being gunned down each month.

While these numbers are shocking, even more shocking is that twice as many people die each month as are gunned down, as a direct result of complications from medical procedures. …