Monday, June 14, 2010

The biggest news in the world of news is that an unlucky Michigan woman, desperate for medical treatment, shot herself last week. No, no, she wasn't suicidal.  She just needed actual treatment for a previous shoulder injury and had only been offered pain medication.  The woman had been told that due to her lack of medical insurance, she would be not be seen by a specialist and could only be treated if the injury were life threatening.

"You want life threatening? I'll give you life threatening!" she may have said as she pulled the trigger and sent a bullet through her wounded shoulder.  Unfortunately for her, she hadn't seen any episodes of Lost or Alias and hadn't learned that shoulder wounds are rarely life threatening, so the hospital superficially treated her new wound and released her again.

News outlets and bloggers all over the net are profiling this story as proof that health care in this country is just as broken as politicians would like us to believe.  The new rallying cry of health care reform in America might just become, "When people have to shoot themselves to get treatment, change is needed."

I'm going to go out on a blogging limb and say that I think change is, indeed, needed in the health care arena.  However, I think pundits should choose their poster children carefully.  I don't think this woman's situation highlights a need for better health care access as much as it highlights the need for good mental health care access.

I mean, our employer has just moved to a health savings account plan for us, and until we meet our high-but-not-as-high-as-some deductible, we're paying $265 a month for my daughter's asthma meds.  That's $265 a month just to ensure my child can breathe, and we HAVE insurance.  This is a burden, for sure, but even if we didn't have insurance and I wasn't sure how to manage her condition, I don't think I'd be shooting her in the lungs to get help.

This is not to say that I don't feel for this woman. She's in pain and out of work and has no way to cover the expense of fixing her shoulder, and so her condition continues.  Pain can make people do and say things they wouldn't normally do or say.  The same is true of poverty.  Just come to my house when that time of the month coincides with a lack of funds to pay for chocolate.  It's not pretty.

Of course, in times that desperate, I'm much more likely to turn a gun on someone else...