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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

More Than It Is Worth

After the last rain storm, the Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly returned to the purple milkweed with frayed wings. There was no one there willing to mend them, so the butterfly just proceeded with its work, regardless of the injury.

How much money is any person's life worth? More than he himself can earn in a lifetime? More than the people who love him can earn? More than the entire Gross National Product?

A meme I have seen making the rounds: "Nobody should die just because he does not have enough money to pay for medical services." But what if the price of medical services is skyrocketing precisely because of this attitude? What if the price of anything is dependent on supply and demand? And what if an unlimited demand creates a very expensive supply?

Right now the demand is artificially unlimited.  Unlimited by the financial means of the individual patient, unlimited by the means of the employer, unlimited by any factor in economic reality, the price of medical services has got no natural check on it.

 Have you ever considered that the deeper the pocket the medical establishment has to dig into, the more medical services are going to cost? It's all a matter of supply and demand. If doctors and hospitals know that nobody is ever going to say "No. That's more than this life is even worth"  -- then they will keep charging astronomical sums that no individual could possibly pay.

The other night, an old friend called me with this dilemma: He and his wife had taken their sick dog to the vet for treatment. The vet charged them ten thousand dollars. They paid it. Then it turned out that their dog was dying, and my friend wanted to take her home, so she could die peacefully among family. But the vet said they still owed four thousand dollars and would not let them have the dog back.

"How much money do you think your dog is worth?" I asked my friend, trying to get him to see that these vet bills just did not make any sense, from an economic standpoint.

"But we love her!" my friend replied.

Right now, people are being told that before they acquire a dog, they need to get medical insurance for their new pet. But isn't it the existence of medical insurance for pets that creates such inflated bills in the first place? Then we hear of people abandoning their dogs in old age, and they are accused of being heartless, but nobody taught them how to deal with a dying dog or a dying human. You make them as comfortable as possible, you stand by them, and you offer a way out if it gets too painful. But you don't go bankrupt in the process. Because after death, life still has to go on.

In nature, a life is worth only as much as it can bring in. Take the Great Spangled Fritillary after a storm. Who will repair its damaged wings?

There was another storm after I shot the footage of the frayed butterfly. When the sun came out again, only the bumblebee returned to the purple milkweed flowers.


  1. Butterflies tend to have a relatively short life, compared to some bees. They can get pretty rough & ragged looking by their end days. Kind of sad, really. When my last dog was suffering from an eye condition, I took him to a local (at the time) university in Wisconsin for a diagnosis. While there, I met several people with their dogs who were bringing them there for their cancer treatments.
    I understand loving your dog and not wanting to let it go as well as anyone, but I couldn't understand torturing the animal, much less spending tens of thousands of dollars on an older pet (these dogs were 12 - 16 years old), to simply buy another year or so with the pet.
    People should absolutely be free to do whatever they choose to do, but I couldn't understand how they couldn't see it from the perspective of their pets and the torture they were putting them through.

    1. I agree, Kathy, that people should do whatever they choose. At their own expense. But the market for health care, even in the case of dogs, is becoming horribly skewed, partly because of the existence of insurance.

      The quality of life versus length of life issue that you mentioned with regard to dogs also applies to humans. It's a really tough call.

  2. You're so right Aya! The existence of health insurance for all humans is horribly skewed now too. I can't believe the jumps in prices - all the way from my premiums, to my deductibles, my copays and now, even the charges coming from hospitals, etc. We all knew the politicians were lying about "this will make it cheaper", yet somehow they passed all this crap. And it's just going to get worse.
    Anyway, yes, I can be very pragmatic in talking about other people's pets, relatives, but not sure what I'd do if it suddenly happened to me.

    1. Yeah, I feel the same way. It is very hard to be objective when it happens to us or someone we love. But they are using that emotional factor to milk and bilk us all!