Atul Gawande on the Health of the Nation

Atul Gawande has a short observation in the November 21, 2016 issue of the New Yorker on the likely fallout of the recent election cycle.  Interestingly, he seems persuaded that health care professional ethics will redeem us from a  potential world where the undocumented are turned away at the emergency department door. This is because health care practitioners "have evolved their own ethics, in keeping with American ideals."  In light of recent studies on the political values of physicians, I have to wonder if that might better be phrased as "they have evolved multiple systems of ethics, in keeping with American ideals,"  but who am I to quibble?

What really caught my eye was his man-in-the-small-town interview with a man named Jim Young who, along with making some interesting observations about the election, noted that "[l]ast year, his son, who was born with spina bifida, died, at the age of thirty-three after his case was mismanaged in the local emergency room."  The single most striking observation in the entire article goes undiscussed: someone who believes a life was lost from medical error goes unquestioned as to whether this has caused him to doubt the value of all that Obamacare he, his extended family, and his fellow Americans have been receiving.

It is extraordinary to find the personal narrative of real or perceived medical error in the general press. I actually try to collect obituaries that note medical error, if any of you would like to contribute to my collection.

We act at our own peril when we  chew Obamacare to death but we let assertions of medical error  unto death slip by unremarked.

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