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This Is Nonsense

I’m an old guy, and I would enjoy getting back some of the money I paid into the Social Security Trust Fund for at least a few more years, but, frankly, I am too old to rate one of the relatively scarce transplant organs available in the current US health care system.

When the big story is a guy even older than I am receiving a heart transplant, I have to wonder how many people with decades of productive years before them are waiting for transplants. I have had an OK life, but it is a one-way ticket.

I can hope that it is a relatively healthy heart from someone in their fifties or older that wasn’t suitable for a younger person, but people that old are not usually tested as donors. It is my personal view that it would be a total waste to put a healthy young heart into someone who statistically has a decade or less left.

One of the biggest failings of American society is its failure to accept death as inevitable. Americans generally refuse to even discuss it. People put off making a will or writing end-of-life directives. It really is an oddity in the world.

9 comments

1 Anya { 03.26.12 at 12:41 am }

After years of ignoring his diabetes, the Professor has finally gone into renal failure. Over all he’s pretty healthy for a sixty-one year old, but the old kidneys just don’t work any more, and he goes to dialysis three times a week.

They’ve done a complete work-up on him to get him on the list for a transplant but there’s one nagging little problem: There is no way in hell that we can pay for the meds he would have to have to stay alive after a transplant, and apparently no way we can afford the insurance that would do so. He’s also falling into the doughnut hole for the expensive meds he’s already taking for dialysis.

So, if you can’t afford to keep yourself alive after the transplant… it’s pointless to get on the list.

The Professor is being philosophical about this, saying it takes a lot longer to die by missing some dialysis sessions than it would by missing a dose of transplant pills. Still, there’s something not right about a healthcare “system” that chooses life or death for people based on their ability to pay.

2 Kryten42 { 03.26.12 at 1:07 am }

Amen to that.

And it’s not just US society, BTW.

I am constantly amazed at how terrified most humans are about something that is 100% inevitable and that they have less control over than playing poker. The only guarantee we get when we are born is that we will die. And that’s not the only thing people spend their time worrying themselves to death about that they have no control over.

Most humans are insane (or at least unsane), and are conditioned that way by their insane parents. A few either get lucky or manage to escape and are at least reasonably sane. *shrug*

3 ellroon { 03.26.12 at 8:31 am }

I just hope it was a liberal dope-smoking hippie donor and Cheney will have these odd progressive thoughts from time to time….

4 Steve Bates { 03.26.12 at 11:25 am }

I could not help wondering how they managed to transplant a heart into a man who didn’t have one in the first place…

As things stand, I have zero respect for Dick Cheney. If Cheney, after multiple MIs and related problems, had decided to let himself go when the next one happened, I might have managed a smidgen of respect for the man. But noooo… he had to use a precious resource that could have gone to someone younger with the prospect of a longer and fuller life.

I am 63, and even though I’m eight years younger than Cheney, I would not seek a transplant heart, even if I could afford it. I have few complaints with my life, and based on my family history and my medical condition, I don’t expect to last all that much longer. But really… let someone who is 40 and otherwise has years to live take that heart. It’s the right thing to do.

5 Bryan { 03.26.12 at 10:42 pm }

That’s the biggest problem we face in this country, after the economy, Anya – our over-priced health care system. It is the most expensive in the world, and the results are third rate. What’s the point of going through the tests and procedures when there is no way in hell you can afford to have it done?

We need universal coverage, just like the rest of the civilized world, and to stop pandering to the insurance industry and Pharma.

Farmers, especially livestock farmers, Kryten, tend to be better grounded than the majority of the population, but the denial in the US is an amazing thing to absorb.

Ellroon, I feel certain if those thoughts ever intruded on him, he would just go out and shoot some caged animals until he got over it.

He has been on a mechanical pump for almost two years, so they’ll drop it in the case, like swapping a motherboard, Steve. I agree with you, it would be a waste to transplant an organ into my carcass, even though reaching 100 is not unusual among my ancestors on my Mother’s side.

6 Badtux { 03.26.12 at 11:17 pm }

Well, there’s also the issue that a heart has to be transplanted within 4 hours of becoming available, and that the best use of said heart is into the carcass of the person least likely to reject it. My guess is that if this heart hadn’t gone into Cheney it wouldn’t have gone into anybody, because there was nobody else in its vicinity that was a good match for it. At least I *hope* that is the case, because otherwise this is just another case of money buying something that should rightfully be someone else’s…

– Badtux the Healthcare Penguin

7 Bryan { 03.26.12 at 11:56 pm }

If the reports are to be believed, he was on the list a lot longer that Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey, who had a heart and liver transplant after about 10 hours on the ‘waiting list’. Steve Jobs liver transplant also looks like a ‘special case’, given his health at the time.

Money talks, and if you can pay cash there is no way I can be convinced that it doesn’t affect your ‘place in line’. Medicine has become a business, not a profession, in this country, and privacy laws guarantee that there is no way of knowing the truth.

8 Badtux { 03.27.12 at 8:56 am }

If you are rich enough to fly to the organ, like Casey and Jobs, your options are of course significantly better than for us little people. The way organs are allocated here in the US is crazy. Some transplant centers are drowning in organs and hand’em out to every Bob, Dick, and Steve that comes through their doors, others get organs once in a blue moon, and whether you get an organ before you die has as much to do with where you are as it has to do with money. The fact that Dick was on the list for so long *despite* having plenty of money to fly to any organ on the Eastern seaboard is pretty telling that if transplant centers had a heart, they tried to give it to anybody before they gave it to Dick.

9 Bryan { 03.27.12 at 10:15 pm }

He might have a rare blood type, or some other problem we don’t know about. Actually, I have AB+, but that’s a plus because I can get blood from just about everybody without problems – I’m a universal recipient. They actually don’t want my blood at blood banks because of that – it is used for parts, not whole blood.

Yes, 20 months is a long stretch for someone who can pay cash for the procedure.