Donna Smith, a community organizer for National Nurses United, originally wrote this essay on Dec. 2. An excerpt:
News Flash: 123 Americans Dead, No WikiLeaks Connection
by Donna Smith
Today, in cites and states across the United States, 123 people died because they lacked enough money to buy healthcare services. That brings the annual death toll for 2010 to 41,082.
WikiLeaks had nothing to do with the deaths of the 123 people who died today or any of the 41,082 who died so far this year.
The 123 who died today did so with the full knowledge of all who allowed their deaths. The 123 who died today might have lived if they had access to appropriate healthcare. The 123 who died got no mention on any news program or website – liberal, conservative or otherwise. So much for the value of 123 human lives.
We Americans have become so conditioned to the cruelty of our profit-driven healthcare system that the death of 123 of our fellow human beings doesn’t even warrant the same coverage as the potential sale of Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics for “The Times They are a Changing.” Something is ridiculous about thinking that Dylan’s lyrics might bring $200,000 – $300,000 from some wealthy buyer who might have funded some healthcare and saved a few lives today. What’s changed, Bob?
Oh, we’re ready to throw the whole terrorist plot arsenal at the WikiLeaks folks because of the potential for lost lives based on the leaking of government diplomatic documents. Yes, we are. But no one stands accountable for the 123 dead today without access to healthcare they would have if only they had money. No one stands accountable for the 41,082 healthcare dead so far in 2010.
More than 41,000 deaths caused by our cruel and wasteful for-profit healthcare system is a very sad note on which to end 2010. If you don’t have access to health care, you’re more likely to die under this system than in a terrorist attack. But far more energy has been spent over the years fighting terrorism overseas than on preventing healthcare deaths, even though far fewer people died after the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Yet, as Donna Smith says, no one is being held accountable for these healthcare deaths. No one is going to jail. The victims’ families likely won’t be compensated. None of the insurance companies will be shut down. Instead, these companies will continue to make profits and victimize more people.
Many Americans continue to view profit-driven health care as perfectly acceptable – or worse, preferable – even though other industrialized countries don’t operate their healthcare systems this way, and think of us as callous for doing so. It is America that is the odd one out. Having a grossly inequitable healthcare system that condemns the poor and unlucky to die is certainly not the kind of “exceptionalism” Americans should be proud of.