The wrong drama
Some interesting policy shifts occurred during the debacle surrounding the end of Terri Schiavo’s life during the past few weeks, and they are overshadowed only by the critical public-health problem the case quietly illustrates.
First the good news: Republicans now are completely in favor of universal health care! Local talk jock Mark Williams of KFBK repeatedly reminded listeners that we were all donating to “Terri’s care” with our tax dollars via Medicaid—to the tune of an estimated 80 grand per year at her Florida hospice. That’s just for basic tube feeding, patient hygiene and two-hour repositioning to combat bedsores.
Republicans are trying to cut $15 billion from the Medicaid budget, but maybe it’s not what it seems. Perhaps they’re only proposing these cuts because they have a more efficient universal health-care package waiting in the wings.
What a strange world it’s become when Republicans are anti-states’ rights and vehemently against the sanctity of a marriage (or at least against the sanctity of the Schiavos’ marriage). It gets stranger when the Democrats have the audacity to champion states’ rights and voice their support for the sanctity of marriage (or at least this particular marriage).
But the underlying issue is serious and will worsen in the next few years. We continue to play God, keeping people alive in conditions that even the devil never anticipated. Bedridden, vegetative patients frequently suffer from bedsores, despite a repositioning schedule. These sores often become infected with normal skin bacteria; although the infections are readily treated with antibiotics, once a bedsore has developed, re-infection in the same spot is likely.
The antibiotics to fight the bedsores eventually progress to Vancomycin, an antibiotic of last resort for patients with resistant strains of staphylococcus aureus. But the bacteria are evolving resistance to Vancomycin, while pharmaceutical companies are focused on more profitable antidepressants and drugs to combat their main side effect: erectile dysfunction.
It’s the perfect health-care storm. Pharmaceutical companies buy Congress and the FDA, and everyone makes loads of money. Meanwhile, no one is developing new antibiotics to combat drug-resistant bugs, and the baby boomers are starting to peek into nursing homes, straining a medical system that’s totally unprepared. And we, the people, once again are totally focused on the wrong daytime drama.