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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Money v. Medicine


            I’m not sure if many of you have heard about the new groundbreaking cancer research going on in Edmonton, Canada.  Of course, it would be Canada that invests their scientist and medical researchers on actual cures and not just the quelling of symptoms that goes on in America’s health care system.  Dr. Evangelos Michelakis, along with researchers at the University of Alberta, have experimented with a cheap and already known product called DCA (Dichloroacetic acid). The experimental compound has shown extreme reduction and even elimination of tumors that cause lung, breast, and even brain cancer in rats.  To avoid a long explanation of intense scientific jargon, the drug works to activate enzymes in each of our cells to ultimately cause the cancer cells to self terminate.  It does all this with scientists boasting no side effects.  All that technical mumbo jumbo isn’t the kind this article is about.  It’s about the kind of mumbo jumbo that keeps money from reaching Haiti or leads the reaction after 9/11 to attack the wrong country.  It is about the politics, plain and simple.  Right now, the process works on rats and needs more testing.  They need funding to begin clinical trials on humans and to achieve all the assurances that the modern day public has grown to expect. However, the public often wants but never expects the occasional miracle.  Pending test results and ultimate usability, the DCA compound is cheap and easily manufactured, virtually anywhere.  If all goes well, it could be exactly what the world has spent decades wishing for.
            So, what’s the problem?  Well, Michelakis has approached many sources for funding to continue and further the trials and has received no support from pharmaceutical companies: the very companies supposedly charged with our health and well-being.  We just came off of a huge election where lots of money and talk was spent on what’s best for Americans.  One of the major issues was and is Health Care.  I’ve heard rhetoric that “American healthcare is the best in the world.” The best in the world should be the smartest, most efficient, and highest quality.  And I’ll give them one out of three, if you can afford it.  Most people receive average care, and those who can’t afford it get the bare minimum if any at all.  If there’s an emergency, it costs more and gets billed to everyone.  In the end, we just have the best Healthcare business in the world.  We talk of doing the “right thing” and dissect moral issues until the cows come home.  Our country can easily get swept up in the glamour of campaigns and every individual begins to think they know what’s best after hearing it so carefully presented to us.  But there is no doubt that they all claim to want to help you and your family.  You’d think that funding promising research for a cheap cure for cancer would be a no brainer. 
            Apparently, there is no patent on the compound and the profit margin isn’t enticing enough for drug companies.  It is clear to the most basic observer that those companies, as rich and profitable as they are, do not seem to be interested in the human benefit but more the financial one.  It is more profitable to keep the public sick and knocking on their door when our medical needs approach dire straits.  Somehow they are under the illusion that helping people get better will stop them from ever getting sick, and maybe they will lose all the profits they’ve been plotting so hard to achieve.  Look Healthcare Industry, you’ll never be broke.  People will always get sick and need medical attention: its just biology.  The idea that we should squeeze every dime out of people because they want to live a healthy life is unconscionable.  It seems contrary to the ideals this country was founded on in the first place.  There are too many cases of people losing their homes or life savings due to an unforeseen illness.  Of course if we had a universal healthcare system most of this wouldn’t be a problem.  It feels like there is something akin to Police and Fire Departments; something that a civilized world provides for it’s people.  I can say throughout the course of my life the quality and attentiveness of the general practitioner has gone downhill.  There are too many cases of doctors pushing drugs and complex chemicals to quell the symptoms of the disease, but not actually address the root of the problem.  It is all about what can make the most money.
            Again, So what?  Didn’t we all expect that?  Don’t we all roll our eyes at the cliché melodrama of greedy corporations fighting to make a buck at any cost?  The idea is so implanted in our heads that our first reaction is generally something like, “well of course they only care about money.”  But is that the world in which we want to live?  Is it only a promise of a great reward that fuels our risk?  Is this great reward only measured in dollars nowadays?  I say to you that this is the danger of Capitalism.  We stand behind that label as if it is the definition of America.  We place all our eggs in that one basket and out of some insecure narcissism we defend it at all costs.  The cost this time is human life, biological progress, peace of mind, even the financial cost at the hospital and the future security that the growing numbers of families are facing each day.  I don’t want to sound like I’m beating on America or our doctors, but there does seem to be a lost sense of responsibility and ethics in the way we practice.  Of course they’re some of the best doctors in the world here in America.  It is not their fault that the system ties their hands while operating in an impossible budget. 
            Much of the population has speculated that pharmaceutical companies are “evil” and “don’t really care about helping people.”  A lot of critical talk about the healthcare system is either dismissed by pundits with some vested interest or the arguments get muddled in the heated political misdirection of today.  Well, here is a clear case on which to judge them.  It is resoundingly obvious that helping you and your family is not a goal on their agenda. 
            Surely it must be in someone’s financial interest to have people live longer.  Maybe groups of credit card companies or hedge fund operators or cigarette companies or even all the small businesses that don’t want to fund employee healthcare programs month after month can all get together and invest in their future sales, and maybe inadvertently help some people.  It is just unfortunate that we, in the greatest country in the world, have a healthcare system that makes an increase in quality and notable progress, conflicting ideals. 
            Americans are constantly plagued by health concerns and growing cancer related illnesses. Either due to our lifestyle, the food we eat, or the ever-growing artificial presence in our lives, our trips to the hospital and doctor are assured to come.  Let’s finally put our money where our mouth is and help fund this and any research that can help better the future of this country.  It’s either that, or we can stop with the charade that politicians and big companies care about people and stop getting swept up in their marketing campaigns.  We may finally understand that the safety and well-being of our friends and families is in our hands.  

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