Elastic House

So, a couple of weeks ago I found House on Netflix.  This is probably one of my favorite TV shows for several reasons.  One of which is the depth of the main character, House.

I won’t go through a detailed biography of the character.  If you know the program, then you know the character.  If you don’t, I invite you to watch an episode or two, perhaps three or four, to get an idea of him.

I was driving home from work a couple of days ago and I had a thought.  What if there was more to the show?  Let me give you this much.  Each episode begins with someone getting sick or getting into an accident of some kind.  Then House and his department take the medical case and discern what it is that is wrong with the patient.  Typically, it ends up being something completely outlandish – something that no one would ever consider.

This begs the question, how do they come up with their diagnoses? They use a lot of conversation among one another, conversation with the patient, and conversation with the patient’s loved one or ones.  With each conversation usually comes some kind of medical test or exam.  Only a handful of times does the cost of those texts or exams come up.

And there is the genesis of my thought…

I could give you an exhaustive list of tests, scans, and exams that the characters use to find their diagnosis and save the day, but I won’t.  You rarely see the patients or their families after the fact, but one can imagine the mountain of medical bills that have been issued.  There is little talk of insurance coverage beyond the doctors’ (mainly House’s) malpractice insurance.  Yet, it cannot be denied that huge costs are incurred with every decision the patients or the doctors make.

It reminded me of a time some years ago…

My ex’s dog got pretty sick. I was at home with our dogs and she was at school, and her dog, Misti, began pooping blood.  Needless to say, I completely freaked out. I called her, left a message.  Called my dad to get in touch with his sister (a veterinarian) to get her to call me.  After I talked with my aunt, my ex called and told me to hurry to campus and pick her up. She got an appointment with a vet in town.

Once we got to the vet’s office, the attendant at the desk asked us if there was a limit to the treatment we could afford.  My ex, without hesitation, said, “there isn’t any.”

And there, there, is the point.  I read something once, and it has never left me.  Essentially, what it said was that the founding fathers of our country, knowing that the cost of national defense is infinitely elastic because security is paramount to establishing a stable society, socialized it.  At the same time, the medical care of those whom we love, or ourselves, is quite the same.  How many of us have ever told a doctor not to perform a test on ourselves or a loved one because the test will be too expensive, especially if one is really, really sick?  Personally, I don’t know anyone that has ever done so.

Back to House… I believe that one of the underlying purposes of the show is to illustrate that point.  People will pay whatever they need to pay in order to ensure that a doctor, or doctors, can find the cause of an ailment.  They will consent to the test.  Occasionally on the show, there is a lack of consent.  Not because of money, but because the treatment or test is perceived as too dangerous. They will knowingly consent to the debt without question, and why wouldn’t they?  People want to be well.  They want to live as long as possible, and they want their loved ones to do exactly the same, regardless of the possibility that the debt incurred will live long after they are gone.

If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but I don’t think that I am.  This is something that I will probably continue to mull over in my mind.



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