Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just What Every Modern Home Needs!

And now you know why they run so fast when you turn on the lights!

Solar Cockroach


The other night I was watching an NBC News "expose" regarding the state of the health insurance industry.  The show was part of the dateline franchise and was called "Critical Condition." One of the reports involved a young girl, Nataline Sarkisyan, diagnosed with and treated for leukemia, but who ultimately died because, as NBC's Ann Curry wanted us to believe, because she didn't receive a liver transplant.

Several things were just so outrageously wrong, they had to be lies.  They involve the claimed costs, and the reasoning for the liver transplant.

First off were the cited costs. CBS said the treatment, a bone marrow transplant which is the usual course for leukemia, can cost $700,000.00. I have done video work regarding leukemia, and have been close to those treating the disease. I know how involved the procedure can be.  But, Wow, I thought, that's expensive.   So I checked.  The actual numbers for a bone marrow transplant range from $50,000 to $200,000 for the really complex ones. So how can CBS be so wrong? Because they wanted to be.

First off, journalism isn't rocket science.  Meaning, no one's life is at stake if a few numbers are wrong.  They think that the important thing is to make your point.  However, with the backdrop of Obama's healthcare reform initiative, which specifically addresses costs, don't these numbers have a special meaning? And isn't accuracy especially important because of it?

It looks like NBC News was trying to fire up viewers to feel as though costs are completely out of control.  If one accepts $700K for a BMT, than that assumption would be true.  But if a BMT (a pretty involved procedure, by the way), is correctly marked at $50K, the whole issue looks different. And I haven't addressed the liver transplant yet.

The girl's family insisted that she receive the liver transplant recommended by her physician.  Note that the discussion didn't go into issues such as why her liver had failed.  Point-of-fact, the poor girl was dying, and her organs began to fail. A liver transplant might have extended her life for a few weeks, but no more. In the end, her insurer approved the new liver, but Natalione dies before the procedure could be performed.

I'm not discussing whether or not she deserved it.   But I will say, had she received a new liver then died a few weeks later, that the liver she used would have been unavailable to someone who was less ill, someone whose life could have been saved for years. It's not like we send out to WalMart for a liver; they are hard to come by. This mode of thinking is called triage, and is, at best, difficult. It's life and death. But it has to be done to favor the greater good over the lesser.

So, what should we think about NBC? They munged up all the facts, bending  them to suit. The story was very compelling, and made the health insurer look mean and evil. But the bottom line is that they did everything reasonable to save the girl's life. At no additional cost to the family.

People die. But family members need to accept that it's seldom someone else's fault. The mother of the girl and the tone of the story definitely went that way.

The clarion call of the media used to be Accuracy, but no more. I am reminded on a line from the film, 12 Monkeys - "there's no right, there's no wrong, there's only public opinion."

The moral of the story: Distrust the media.

Zebron and James