In early March, I got the call every child of an elderly parent dreads: my mother, aged 80, had fallen, breaking her left wrist and right leg. Coming home was out of the question. She needed hospitalisation, nursing home care, then physical therapy. She was in a state of shock. My father, 83, was in crisis.
Imagine this scenario:
- She and my father do not fill out a single insurance form. They do not have to worry about money. Every minute in the hospital and nursing home, and transportation, is free of charge.
- While my mother convalesces at the nursing home, her care manager comes to see my father at home. She asks many questions - warm, sympathetic, respectful - about their lifestyle. She makes notes, is thoughtful, has a sense of humour and plenty of time. She wants to know how the accident is affecting them and my father's concerns.
- A carpenter comes. He instals an extra wooden banister on the inside wall of the stairs. He builds a step outside their front door. He instals rails in the bathroom downstairs and raises her easy chair several inches so she can sit even with the full leg cast.
- When my mother comes home, a physical therapist visits three times a week. A nurse comes daily to give her an injection for a chronic circulatory problem that has been aggravated by her immobility.
This happened this spring in England where my parents live. They have the NHS, and every single thing -what I have described and much more - was provided for them.
You can call it socialised medicine, you can call it what you like. But I am sure glad they have it, and you would be, too, in my place.
It would be so easy to have a similar system here in the US. The most amazing medical equipment is on hand today. Our technology is tremendously advanced, but our ethics are lagging.
US philosopher Eli Siegel, founder of aesthetic realism, said that contempt, thinking we will be more by making other people less, is the greatest interference in people's lives, including in economics.
One of the most foul instances of contempt today is the exploitation by a few people of the sickness, pain and worry of millions of others, including the elderly. Ellen Reiss, the class chair of aesthetic realism, explained why for-profit companies and decent healthcare are like oil and water when she wrote: 'Once you are after profit, you can't be too interested in what people deserve. It will cramp your ability to make money from them.' The most pressing needs of Americans today are seen as an opportunity for profit. It doesn't have to be that way.
For every American to get the healthcare they deserve, this question must be addressed: 'What does a person deserve by being a person?'
After more than four months, my mother's cast was removed. The physical therapists are coming more often now that she is learning to walk again. My parents are not bankrupt, they are in their home, they have no healthcare debts and will be able to continue the same modest lifestyle they have had these past years. They are even planning a bus trip to Scotland. My mother said: 'You wouldn't believe the treatment I've received. Everyone has been so good to me. I'm so grateful to the National Health Service.' So am I.