On Monday's discussion here about end-of-life choices, the cost of the drugs used for physician-assisted dying - $3,000 to $4,000 in Oregon – was mentioned. (Thank you all who posted ideas about assistance with the price.)
Soon after that story was posted Monday morning, two related stories popped up while I was reading the news of the day.
The first is short and terribly sad. As the Washington Post reported, Brian S. Jones, shot his wife, Patricia A. Whitney-Jones, age 76, in the head then shot himself three times.
”[The] Washington state couple whom authorities believe died by murder-suicide reportedly left several notes expressing worry that they could not afford treatment for the wife’s severe medical issues.
“The husband, 77, called 911 shortly before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and told the dispatcher that he planned to shoot himself, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. The man said he had written a note for the sheriff with information and instructions.
“The dispatcher tried to keep the caller on the phone, according to authorities, but the man said, “We will be in the front bedroom” and hung up.”
Did you notice that first sentence in the quotation, “...worry that they could not afford treatment for the wife's severe medical issues.” We'll get back to that in a moment.
The second story has a happier ending but still leaves one wondering.
According to Kaiser Health News, on a Saturday morning in July this year, 56-year-old Donna Ferguson from Ecru, Mississippi, met Dr. Thomas Parisi, an orthopedist from Madison, Wisconsin, at Galenia Hospital in Cancun, Mexico, where he performed a total knee replacement on one of Ferguson's knees.
A few hours later, while Ms. Ferguson was already working with a physical therapist, Dr. Parisi flew home to Wisconsin. Ferguson stayed another 10 days at a nearby Sheraton hotel for physical therapy at the hospital twice a day.
”Parisi, who spent less than 24 hours in Cancun, was paid $2,700, or three times what he would get from Medicare, the largest single payer of hospital costs in the United States. Private health plans and hospitals often negotiate payment schedules using the Medicare reimbursement rate as a floor...
“In the United States, knee replacement surgery costs an average of about $30,000 — sometimes double or triple that — but at Galenia, it is only $12,000, said Dr. Gabriela Flores Teón, medical director of the facility.
“The standard charge for a night in the hospital is $300 at Galenia, Flores said, compared with $2,000 on average at hospitals in the United States.
“The other big savings is the cost of the medical device — made by a subsidiary of the New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson — used in Ferguson’s knee replacement surgery.
“The very same implant she would have received at home costs $3,500 at Galenia, compared with nearly $8,000 in the United States, Flores said.”
Ferguson's Mexico surgery was set up by a new-ish organization, North American Specialty Hospital (NASH), based in Denver.
”[NASH] has organized treatment for a couple of dozen American patients at Galenia Hospital since 2017.
“Parisi, a graduate of the Mayo Clinic, is one of about 40 orthopedic surgeons in the United States who have signed up with NASH to travel to Cancun on their days off to treat American patients.”
Two big things jump out at me about these two stories, especially as 20-odd presidential candidates in the U.S. are arguing over their individual flavors of “Medical for all”:
What is wrong with a country that sends its patients AND its physicians to another country for treatment at a reasonable price?
What is wrong with a country in which an aged couple sets up a murder/suicide pact because they cannot afford medical treatment?
Both of these questions fall into the same category as Monday's question about the high price of the drugs in Oregon's physician-assisted death program.
Any of us could find ourselves in these predicaments. Something is very wrong.