Sickbeds Again

Sullivan’s “view from your sickbed” is back. And once again, it confused tragedy with analysis. The story is about a young woman who needed a liver transplant but the hospital incorrectly thought her insurance didn’t cover it. The reader claims a universal healthcare system might have saved her.

What happened was tragic, but the insurance system did not cause that young woman’s death. No system would have been able to transplant her within hours of admission and it’s highly unlikely a universal system would have transplanted her within two days. In the UK, the median wait time for a transplant is about three months. In the US, it’s almost a year. (The difference is likely due to difference in organ donation frequency).

Moreover, a bureaucracy is going to get between patient and doctor in all transplant cases. Because of the limited number of organs available, someone has to decide where they go. Healthy livers do not just grow on trees.

Had she lived more than three hours, it is likely that the insurance errors would have been discovered and she would have been put back on the list. However, it’s very likely she would have died even if she’d put on the list immediately.

This is why I hate debating healthcare with sob stories. Because sob stories don’t tell the entire truth.

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