Monday, June 25, 2007

Medical Care In Europe

At the beginning of the month I saw that there was a bit of a hoo-hah involving a U.S. citizen with tuberculosis. Apparently he has an extremely rare though dangerous form of the disease and he potentially contaminated an entire airplane full of people because he panicked and wanted to get home to be treated. Well, actually two airplanes full of people, I suppose. The CDC told him not to travel by air, but he said no one "ordered him not to." Once in Europe, the CDC contacted him and told him to turn himself in immediately at a clinic here. One article* quoted him as saying that he thought if he didn't get to the specialized clinic in Denver he was going to die: "If doctors in Europe tried to treat him and it went wrong, he said, 'it's very real that I could have died there.'" He also said that he felt that the CDC suddenly "abandoned" him.

I shouldn't judge anyone for their irrational actions, least of which would be panicking over medical issues. Up until the epidural, the bravest thing I've ever done was go to the dentist in a foreign country. Still, I think if I knew I had TB I'm not sure I would have left the country in the first place, particularly if I were in contact with the CDC. I don't think it's possible to deny that his actions were selfish and irresponsible, whether he was extremely scared or not.

There are several things that bothered me when I read the article. The first is that his family seems to think it's the U.S. government's responsibility to take care of him once he made the decision to disregard the CDC's advice in the first place. His wife said, "Imagine sitting in a foreign country with your husband and your government saying they were going to leave you there." Indeed. That comment definitely shows an attitude of entitlement and is a reason that Americans are less than popular overseas. It makes me wonder how many other people feel similarly, because I personally think it's an outrageous expectation.

The second is his comment about European doctors trying to treat him and potentially messing up, because, like, he could have died and stuff. Did he think they were going to try to fix him with leeches and bloodletting? Did he really think that he couldn't get quality health care here, or did he just make an impulsive decision to run back to the US? I have to say that I've been mightily impressed with the health care system in France and can't imagine that there aren't top-level TB clinics around. Granted, you might not have AC or HBO in your room, but the quality of care is going to be good. To me it looks like this person is one of those people who have no clue about the exterior world. I feel badly that he has the disease, but I also feel worse for the other people he endangered.

*I tried to post the link but something went awry...I'll see if I can find it again.


Anonymous said...

I think what he did was absolute madness. And his concerted efforts to evade detection were unbelieveable. The World Health Organisation rates France as Number 1 in the world in terms of its healthcare delivery :)

Papadesdeux said...

And if I remember correctly the USA is in something like 35th place. OK, maybe my memory is patheric, but it was certainly way down from #1. Of course they may be penalizing the USA for spending huge sums on extraordinary money making equipment and procedures to save a handful of people while they let thousands of others die for lack of basic health care. Basic health care is not lucrative for the private health care system, and of course godforbid that someone should think your taxes should be spent by providing everyone with basic health care.

Pardon My French said...

Destinationmetz -- yeah, it was even a bit sketchy that he taped the initial interview with the CDC. What a guy.

Papales2 -- I'd be interested to know what goes into the rankings. We've been to the ER here and got straight in, which is very unusual if not impossible back home. Of course, my doctors back home were always great and had the latest technology, but I've also discovered that shinier isn't always better. I think access to a competent, earnest doctor is what matters and I've never wondered if someone was in it for the money here.

Angela in Europe said...

It did seem rather crazy, didn't it? I haven't heard anything more about it, though.

Riana said...

ditto destination metz. I was mad when the AP press had an article that was a recommendation that Angelina Jolie who was living in france at the time should not have her baby in france ( basically suggested it was a third world country here) and should have it in the usa . i was furious, but she showed them and had her baby in africa instead. ha. we have the best health care here, and its not just me saying it. your analysis is right on.