Thursday, November 11, 2010

please sir, can i have one more solid gold pencil?

i was walking down bloor street yesterday and i saw this billboard at shaw. it's for the globe and mail and it says "money can buy anything. until you find that lump in your breast."

i've seen a few other billboards like it for the globe and mail, and it's part of a specific campaign to promote a series of health care articles in the globe and mail that discuss private and public health care in canada.

i found this one to be incredibly irksome. to publicize the debate "is profit the medicine for ailing public health care?" the example is breast cancer? because once you get breast cancer the amount of money you have doesn't matter?

the globe and mail billboard certainly provokes debate with this statement because that just isn't the case. how much money you have obviously doesn't determine what kind of cancer you get, but it certainly does contribute to living longer and healthier before, during, and after treatment.

getting cancer doesn't mean you automatically get a free ride from the health care system, everything isn't paid for and it can be extremely expensive in this country to get sick. first of all if you get cancer, hopefully you have a job that gives you time off for being sick or-even better-sick pay. if you don't, like many of us, have this luxury then you can look forward to losing your job or going on leave without pay.

for real, when i had bronchitis my job stopped accepting me calling in sick. i was a SERVER. bronchitis is often contagious!

every canadian might have a semblence of health care coverage, but basic health care coverage doesn't cover everything.

take cervical cancer, for instance. once a year, OHIP pays for me to have a pap test and physical. if i had a physical in january 2010 i have to wait until january 2011 to book my next physical. but what if i've been exposed to hpv at one point or another and i need to have an extra pap? or if anything else happens in between that necessitates an extra physical? well, i have to pay for that.

it's easy to say, well of course you'll pay for it if you need it but that's not true. there have definitely been times in my life where i didn't get things that i needed because they were just too expensive at the time. even something as small as a $50 doctor's fee can be too much when you're low on cash.

so, then if you don't want to pay for it, you won't get your extra pap(or whatever test it is). this gives your cervical cancer an extra twelve months to develop.

a commenter on the article "nobody should profit from health care? get real!"(written by karen selick) asks:

"How do we get the benefits of privatization while maintaining the comfort of knowing low income Canadians will not receive "hamburger health care"."

we don't. we don't get the benefits of privatization for some while maintaining quality health care for all because that's not how it works. we either decide that public and accessible health care is a right that canadians stand behind or we move to a different system.

people who have more money ALREADY have better health care provided to them--they can afford to flee the country and get whatever procedure they need, they can afford to buy medication they need that isn't covered, they can cut lines by going to private providers. they can afford gym memberships, healthy eating, and time to relax.

in fewer words, health isn't just not being sick and some people can certainly afford more general wellbeing than others.

in the article, karen selick compares health care to any other commodity:

"Office supply stores sell wooden pencils for as little as eight cents each. Swanky gift shops also sell pencils: gold-filled and priced as high as $1,400."

she continues, writing that nobody accuses "supermarkets of being evil for profiting from people’s hunger, or shoe stores for profiting from people’s barefootednesssuper ...yet, Canadians have become so accustomed to thinking that health care must be provided by government that moral panic ensues the moment anyone suggests it could be provided by private, profit-making enterprises. “Nobody should profit on the backs of the sick,” opponents cry."

this is true, people don't often call supermarkets evil because they sell something that people need or shoe stores for selling shoes for people's feet. BUT people very often call supermarkets evil for procuring food in evil ways, for supporting mass production farm factory systems that are bad for animals and people and produce vegetables that are making us sick.

people need shoes, but that doesn't stop people from demanding that the shoes they purchase not be sewn by children in another country. it doesn't stop people who want shoes from deciding that they don't want to purchase leather shoes or shoes that have unethically produced leather in them.

she writes that "those who really want to help the poor and sick should be clamouring for the private sector to be allowed to do the job" because historically private sector technologies and advances available only to the wealthiest EVENTUALLY become available to the "poor."

just because products are available doesn't mean that suddenly there are no ethics involved,and a long history exists of people/consumers demanding more ethical commodities.

or maybe the ultra wealthy could stop cutting in line and stop propping up the pharmaceutical companies for their own benefit.

take this story: a low cost, easily accessible and safe diabetes drug may have an off label use as a cancer fighting drug. metaformin has been shown in studies to slow the progression of lung and breast cancers.

well shit, that's great news!!

unfortunately, because the study is based on a generic drug that doesn't offer huge returns to any pharmaceutical company, there is "no financial incentive for drug companies to fund" this research.

dr pamela goodwin, an oncologist studying metaformin in three different studies in toronto, says

"We first proposed this five years ago...It took us five years of multiple presentations and requests for funding to cobble together funding."

COBBLE together fucking CANCER RESEARCH funding. because noone wants to fund it because it isn't going to make them any money!

this is the kind of mind set that selick's article defends. like, actually if you want to help the poor and sick maybe you should fight to have these kinds of studies funded despite the fact that they won't make money off of sick and cancer ridden people. this seems like a better idea to me than feeling magnanimous for purchasing a $1400 pencil so that "someday" the poor can have one too.

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