Saturday, June 6, 2009

Medical Care in Cuba

Even though I absolutely love Michael Moore's documentaries, I found the part of his film Sicko where he talks about the state of medical care system in Cuba simply disgusting and extremely manipulative.

I've been to Cuba several times and I have to say that it mimics the sorry state of the Soviet medical care system in a very scary way. Of course, if you show up as a famous American film director surrounded by video cameras, you get an excellent level of care. If, however, you come as a simple tourist, be prepared to be refused care even if you are in real pain and are prepared to pay a lot to get help. You will be dismissed in a rude way and denied help.
Of course, if you show up as a Cuban citizen, then everything gets even worse. The government decides the minimal level of care you deserve, and you shouldn't hope to get anything above that. A woman who suffers from asthma told me that she is allotted a certain number of inhalers per year and can't get more even though she really needs them. An inhaler costs between $40-60 on the black market, so she is reduced to begging tourists for money or inhalers.
Those who want to support Cuba no mattter what will, without a doubt, claim that this is the result of the embargo. This view of Cuba's problems as being all due to the embargo fails to take into account the similarities between what happens in Cuba and the state of affairs in the Soviet Union. Soviet medical care was part of the state's repressive apparatus aimed at cowing people into submission. We are most vulnerable when we are sick and in pain. The goal of such systems id to make the pain just tolerable enough. If we are always just a little sick and helpless, we will not be likely to rebel.


Henry Louis Gomez said...

Glad to see that on your trips you weren't brainwashed into believing the propaganda like so many others. Now, I have a question. Given the fact that Moore manipulated the truth in a disgusting manner (your words), what does that say about his overall integrity and the believability of his other claims. Not just in this film but all of them? If you research Moore you'll find that he's been pulling this stuff since Roger & Me.

My point is that, he's a funny guy and talented. But he's not a documentarian. He's an activist and he's been proven as liar. He believes the ends justify the means.

Of course, since he wants socialized healthcare in America he'll never highlight the weaknesses of such systems in other countries (there are weaknesses) or the strength of our mainly private system (we do have strengths). For example the profit motive is what creates most drug innovations. And it's pharmaceuticals more than anything that are extending life and raising quality of life. I can't think of a recent drug innovated in a country with socialized medicine.

And yes we have weaknesses too. Not everyone is covered. And coverage doesn't cover everything. But is Moore going to highlight charities and state and local programs that often fill in these gaps? Of course not because it's against his agenda.

Anyway, great post.

Anonymous said...

Pharmaceutical companies are global, half of them have headquarters in Europe (i.e the continent of universal health care), not US, and even the US ones not necessary have their research division in the States. Therefore I fail to see a correlation between successful drug development and the way health insurance is organized in a given country.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

You're absolutely right. We'll see what happens. All those Euro drugs I see all the time will save our lives.

Clarissa said...

The situation in Cuba is truly heartbreaking, and not just in what concerns medical care. It's sad that many people still refuse to acknowledge that in order to promote their own political goals. The ends really do not justify the means in this case.