Joe was from Eastern Europe. He was floridly psychotic, and he was brought to the ER against his will (BA52) by local law enforcement. He did not speak English… at all, and he was loudly accusing his son of trying to poison him. Sadly, he believed we were going to lock him up in a US prison for the rest of his life.
None of this was particularly unusual. Nor was the fact that he had no local physician, and no health insurance. Just another day in the ER.
The interesting part started to come out when I spoke with his son, who did speak English, and who lives in the US. As it turns out, Joe had been taking Xanax and Prozac for months back home, and “according to the in-laws” he had been exhibiting some signs of irrational behavior and paranoia for several weeks.
Now, at this point it began to strike me as odd. I cannot imagine placing someone I know and love on a plane, to a foreign country, where they cannot speak the language, when they are already psychotic. What are the chances they will get worse? Probably close to 100%!
What would possess someone to place their father on a plane and relocate them to a place with no system of support, little or no ability to communicate, almost no family, and a nearly 100% chance their condition would worsen? I don’t know… but I have a theroy.
Now back to our story. Joe was agitated and even with our “blue phone” interpreters he would not calm down enough for any rational psych evaluation. So he was admitted to the hospital, involuntarily, under the authority of the BA52, for the protection of himself and others.
I will not digress on the many, many abuses of this involuntary admission process I have seen over the last decade. But I will say in this man’s condition, there was little choice. He was now under the care of our psychiatrists, against his will, for an undetermined time, at the expense of the US taxpayer.
Perhaps the most talked about topic of the last few election cycles is the provision of medical care. Everyone has a different solution. But the most recent proposals seem to have one thing in common. “Healthcare is a basic human right.“
In the ER I have provided free care for thousands and thousands of patients who were uninsured, and completely unable to pay. I would like to believe that health care is a basic human right. My fellow physicians, and my staff certainly do not treat insured patients and uninsured patients differently. The US healthcare system, and physicians and healthcare workers in general, are on the whole pretty generous. But what are the implications if we declare this new “basic human right”.
Well, one implication is that ANY person, from ANYWHERE in the world who is able to board ANY plane, train, or automobile and make it to the US will now be guaranteed free, unlimited healthcare for whatever condition ails them! If this human right exists, the it exists for all humans, everywhere. If it exists, then those of us who PAY our health insurance premiums, and who PAY our taxes are no different than those who do not. In reality, and in actual practical application, if you arrive in my ER, or any other ER in the USA, you get free care.
Already in the ER I routinely care for the poor, and for alcoholics, substance abusers, accident victims, and mentally ill persons who have no insurance. For years we as a society have also provided, ER care, hospitalizations, surgeries, and medications for uninsured illegal immigrants.
But NOW some want to declare this a basic universal human right? What about all the promises to citizens who have paid into Medicare and Social security for their entire lives? What about our promises to them? What about a balanced budget for the sake of our children and grandchildren? Dust in the wind. Hot air. Empty political rhetoric.
If the US cannot even adequately provide for our homeless, our veterans, our inner city poor, our mentally ill, our prisoners… Do politicians really believe we can provide free healthcare to the ENTIRE WORLD?
Health care as a basic human right? Be careful what you wish for.