Dentist or Death

Today’™s Wapo has a story about a kid dying in Maryland from an abcessed tooth. His mother apparently couldn’™t get a Medicaid dentist to extract the tooth, perhaps wasn’™t aware of any other options, and he ended up with a brain infection.

Gnawing at me as I read this was the reality of [...]

Commentary By: somegirl

Today’™s Wapo has a story about a kid dying in Maryland from an abcessed tooth. His mother apparently couldn’™t get a Medicaid dentist to extract the tooth, perhaps wasn’™t aware of any other options, and he ended up with a brain infection.

Gnawing at me as I read this was the reality of my own need for some medical care that I’™m putting off because of the major expense. I have a little toothache myself, and even if it’™s just a little cavity, which I doubt, it will cost a couple hundred dollars. Yes, I’™ve researched the dental school, but here in Philly, even that is $65 to get an exam and x-rays. A bargain to be sure, if you have the time to sit and wait, which most people with jobs don’™t have. And for those who don’™t have a job, well, I’™d venture to say that 65 bucks is earmarked for other necessities, like food and shelter.

Dental care, like medical care, as we all know, is outrageously expensive. A friend of mine, a medical professional herself with a good income, just got some medical work done that cost her $5000. She told me her dentist told her she really needed $20,000 worth of work, but who can afford that? She opted to have the worst problem fixed, and put off the rest indefinitely. With healthcare expenditures expected to double in the next ten years, how is anyone going to stay above water, insured or not? The is answer is there is no way we can afford it, unless we take the profit out of it to a large degree. And the answer to that is (once again I will reiterate) universal care, not universal coverage.

I also wanted to highlight the real story here though – the comments this article generated. The absolute hatred and contempt for the poor that comes through is devastatingly disproportionate, while the amount of control they are expected to have over their lives is almost hilariously projected onto them by these same haters. Of course there is the usual ‘œthe government is not responsible’ crowd, and no one even mentions the doctors’™ culpability from turning away a severely ill patient. Maybe the mother really had no idea her kid could get a fatal infection from a toothache, and the dentist would have done well to inform her. But hey, why bother if she can’™t afford the bill anyway?

While I am guilty of not understanding the impulse to have children you can’™t afford, and have made my own choice accordingly, I am capable of comprehending a reality that just isn’™t that simple. Many people, men and women alike, can afford children when they first have them, and then find themselves in dire circumstances once they have them – frequently because of medical bills. Are we to tell them their children deserve to die because they are horrible parents? Are we as a society willing to sit back and say that it’™s okay for children to die because their fathers are out of the picture, or their parents are ignorant, or they are criminals, or poor but hard-working, or have no relatives to help out? Where does it end and when will we finally draw a line and say none of it is acceptable?

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 by Richard Blair |
Category: Healthcare

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