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(A reader has sent this account of his dealings with medical specialists. We publish it as a reminder that relations between people under capitalism are based on the ideology of self-interest, and that a socialist transformation of society will make possible the emergence of a truly socialist ideology based on serving the people.)
According to Business Insider the highest paying jobs in Australia are Surgeons and Anaesthetists, at over $300,000 pa. This is more than many CEOs but probably does not take into account other benefits like share issues.
After recent bouts of illness and spending a lot of time, involuntarily, in reflection, I am led to report on my experiences with the medical profession. There is nothing like a period of blindness to provide opportunity for reflection upon painful and disappointing experience.
As a child, I remember being taken to a GP for a few childhood complaints. The local GP was, after the priest, the most respected person in the community. My mother was a widow with 5 children, and I don't recall money being involved in these infrequent visits. This was long before Medicare, so I guess the GP was doing this work "Pro Bono", literally, for the common good. Later, this GP stopped to assist at a traffic accident, and was killed when struck by a passing car. His memory now is kept in the Court Reports, because his death gave rise to a legal precedent.
Previously, kids like me had the benefit of a kindly GP, or a trip to the public hospital. I well remember receiving dental treatment from dental students. I also received free dental treatment from the family Dentist. I guess kids with working parents received medical treatment only when necessary, and their parents paid. Maybe they even had health insurance.
Then in the sixties and seventies, as the working class and its allies became active and strong in organisation, and the Party was leading a progressive mass movement, Whitlam and the ALP entered the stage to dilute, diverge, and deceive. Medibank was created to give all the right to access medical services when required. What a con that was.
Very soon the medical profession funded a High Court case against the essential Medibank plank that required medical specialists to work for wages in public hospitals, as they still do in Britain. The medical profession’s argument was laughable: this constituted conscription, which was unconstitutional. (Strange that it seemed constitutional in 1964, when I received my call up notice for military conscription.)
What was even more laughable was the decision of the judges to uphold the medical profession’s objection. I wonder to what extent the judges, jumped up lawyers from private legal practices, could see “Legalbank” in the distance, working for wages, and legal access for all. Self-interest needs no crystal ball!
So there I was, legally blind, with a condition which leaves mainly Aboriginal people permanently blind; and an internal problem that has a very high mortality rate amongst men. The vision problem was rectified through a 30 minute procedure the cost of which was almost completely covered by medical insurance. Without the private medical insurance I would still be waiting for my turn to have the procedure through the public hospital, which I guess explains why so many Aboriginal people become permanently blind from the condition.
That left the other condition.
Prostatic Hyperplasia is a condition of old blokes, like me actually. The drain pipe from the bladder passes through the centre of the prostate gland which stretches to allow urine to pass through to the dual purpose penis. Except it has a stupid design fault. As a man gets older, the prostate becomes more inflexible, and the flow of urine may become restricted.
So the first symptom of PH is difficulty in passing urine, and may then progress to total blockage. Which is not good. It is extremely painful, and if untreated is terminal, but slowly and painfully. It is said that Alexander the Great of Macedon died from that condition; or from the efforts of an early medical practitioner to force a straw up his penis to clear the blockage. (I suspect that one of my surgeons was Macedonian.)
However that is not the worst thing about PH, which comes in two forms and frequently progresses from the first form, Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), to the second and terminal form, Prostate Cancer (PC), which is the cause of death for large numbers of men.
The first Urology surgeon to whom I was referred by my GP, was uninhibited in his delight that I would need to have surgery, and that he would do it. I was his “catch of the day”! Because of my misplaced trust in the medical profession, I allowed him to make arrangements for immediate surgery, at my expense, and at an undisclosed price. Then he mentioned, casually and in passing, as if unimportant, that this operation would have an impact upon my sexual performance.
Being a former gold medal winner at the Sexolympics, this concerned me not a little. Further enquiry revealed that the operation would render me infertile, unable to sire progeny. As I was wishing to do that, the information was pertinent.
My second Urology surgeon, alerted to my first Urology surgeon’s gaffe and its aftermath, recommended a daily tablet which worked quite satisfactorily for the next twenty years.
After 20 years, and a small family, it was recommended I should have a procedure which would check for the presence of cancer, or cancer indicators, and so I met my third Urology surgeon. And what a vulture he was. Every consultation involved a Medicare payment, a Private insurance payment and a cash payment as large as the others to be paid in cash prior.
Exploratory procedure, then laser surgery, then exploratory surgery, and a recommendation for bladder surgery, which I declined, followed by a procedure in which, while I was unsedated and conscious, he tried to insert a cutting tool into my penis, and only desisted when I threatened him with immediate violence (you see why I empathise with Alexander the Great of Macedon). He was not happy.
After that aborted procedure, he recommended further surgery to remove scar tissue caused by the laser surgery, and which was now, instead of the prostate gland, blocking the flow of urine from my bladder. The report included notification that for this surgery he would require the prior payment of several thousand dollars, in addition to the government payment and insurance payment.
And here I got lucky. I wrote him a letter in which I said that as the surgery was required because of the mess he had made of the previous surgery, I would NOT pay the fee. The letter was placed in my medical file, which he did not read until he was standing in front of me, and I was on the operating table, and the anaesthetist was sticking a blunt needle into my wrist. The surgeon glared at me, realised he should have read the notes earlier, and as I slipped into unconsciousness, I heard him say, “Let’s get this over quickly.”
I didn’t see him after the surgery, but I bled profusely for days.
When I saw him a week or so after surgery, which he is obliged to do, he did not say hullo, he gave me a referral letter to Urology surgeon number Four, pushed me into his waiting room and publicly announced that my medical file was closed and I was no longer a client.
As I left his property I passed his Porsche, and reminded myself that the enemy is US imperialism, and capitalist productive relations, not greedy medical specialists, who should be given a chance to learn to serve the people.
But perhaps only one chance.
Let’s be fair; the same things could be said about other professions like lawyers, vets, dentists, pharmacists, etc, in fact wherever profit has become the motive, instead of a will to serve the people.
Surgeon number 4 read my medical file with raised eyebrows, and then told me to come back when I had something wrong with me. Was it ALL un-necessary surgery??
Surgeon number 5 sent me a bill for non-attendance at an appointment I had cancelled. The old “Invoice for Work Not Performed” scam!
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