The United States currently has a very broken and corrupt medical system. Entire boards are specifically tasked with denying coverage to as many patients as possible without getting sued (Moore, 2007). Pre-existing conditions, and other similar loopholes in insurance policies, exclude millions of patients per year from receiving health care they would otherwise be entitled to by their policy. Families that have paid into insurance for years are left out to dry when they need it most. Why? Because the medical system is composed of private corporations. Doctors and nurses may have a desire to help people, but ultimately whether patients get treatment comes down to money. Because of the cost of medical treatments, if the insurance company is not willing to pay the claim, it is virtually impossible for most citizens to pay for potentially life-saving treatment. They certainly don’t receive medical aid for the prevention of disease before it occurs, because that’s not good business sense.
Medical research itself is corrupted by monetary incentive. Drug research is fed through a marketing machine that manipulates and abuses data. Preliminary drug tests often compare against the worst drug instead of the leading competitor. By far, diseases which attract the most press and funding are the less frequent ailments of society, like cancer and AIDs. Obesity related diseases are just not as exciting or compelling, but are the top causes of death in the US (CDC). Vaccines and antibiotics are definitely needed by the public to prevent the resurgence of diseases and prevent their spread. But from the business aspect, vaccines and antibiotics have no investment value; there’s not a large enough public demand for prevention. Because prevention is preventative, the results are tangibly removed from anecdotal experience. People do not get the sickness, so its perceived importance is less relevant to their lives. Preventative medicine is an option which is almost completely overlooked in the medical field.
Preventative medicine aims at creating healthy habits and lifestyles to stop illnesses before they develop. American medicine is geared towards treating the symptoms of disease–not preventing illness. But common sense (or everyday ethics) would tell us that preventative medicine is an ethical duty of the medical system. The obvious neglect on the part of the medical field is irresponsible and unacceptable. Without preventative medicine, hospitals are essentially causing the illnesses they treat (an essentially consequentialist argument). It seems elementary that prevention is an ethically responsible decision. It also stands the Kantian test of universalizability. The intention to make oneself healthy and keep others healthy, should create a very healthy society (Landau, 157). For all intensive purposes the need for a hospital would largely be eliminated. Practically the only reason why preventative medicine shouldn’t work is if people decide not to utilize them.
Patients certainly haven’t implemented prevention in their own lives, and neither have the hospitals. Our culture has compartmentalized health to the hospitals, so average people really don’t even think about their health unless they’re sick. Some people think that citizens should take responsibility, “… all of us need to take responsibility for making healthy choices in our day-to-day activities to avoid so much illness that we cause by over eating, over indulging in various substances, and lack of exercise” (Stubbs). While I think it is a good ethical point that we all have a responsibility to our own health, I think it is an unrealistic request for the US. Our nation is permeated with freedom and hedonistic tendencies. We have been conditioned by our lifestyle to think we can “do whatever the hell we want”, with no regard for the kind of damage it might cause. Why would we be concerned with prevention, when there’s a whole industry built just to fix us? While American culture should change, given the current state of American culture, it is the medical industry’s innate duty to develop prevention programs for all kinds of disease.
Obesity in particular is the largest factor of death in the US (CDC). But this is not something that can simply be willed away. Obesity is often caused by deep psychological factors. Family problems, lack of self worth, and a variety of other psychological triggers create a cyclical depression for which the individual copes by eating. This simulates the comfort and control that the individual is missing in their lives. The fact that obese people are overweight is more of a symptom, and not the disease. Eventually this leads to diabetes, heart, disease, or stroke. This illustrates how important and necessary an intervention is, to prevent illnesses before they occur.
According to Weston and Blasi, it is important to become aware of one’s unconscious relationship to issues in order to understand them fully. My relationship to the situation is probably in some way skewed by assumptions and prejudices concerning healthcare and politics. Preventative medicine seems like a no-brainer to me, but perhaps I am working on some false premise.
I have already watched a lot of documentaries and read a lot of articles which condemn corporations for being structures built on greed. I have developed a personal conviction for the wickedness of the corporate business model. I recognize how stockholders, while technically owning a company, have zero accountability to the business. The people who run the business, do not own it, and actually have no say in how it is run. Corporations escape regulation by being international. If they don’t like a law in one place, they go somewhere else.
From what I can see, corporations are completely oriented towards maximizing their own profit, regardless of consequences or the innate goodness of actions. By both utilitarian and Kantian standards they are a morally depraved system. I believe that healthcare would be better served in the hands of the government than a corporation. But I also believe that our government is largely corrupted by the corporations themselves.
To quote my high school economics teacher, “Everyone agrees that the medical system needs fixed, but no one can agree how” (Katie Mckee). Soon we run into contentious quandaries concerning the nature and policies of healthcare. Does society have a right to imprison someone who disregards sexual responsibility with AIDs? If preventative methods are put in place, should they be considered mandatory by the government, or by insurance companies? Are we sacrificing freedom by introducing preventative medicine? These are important questions. I think that the freedom to refrain from a preventative program should remain an option, but if the results are made tangible by hands-on trainers, then the programs will become more popular. Who doesn’t want to be healthy? That’s all the incentive we need, really.
The medical industry needs to adopt preventative methods, because it is their ethical obligation. Health care should probably be socialized, but individual consent should still be a vital part of the procedure. While there’s a lot wrong with the health system, this is one issue which should not be overlooked.