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The Cost of Success

Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:12am
Dr. Rob

For those of you who didn't know, I entered the National Novel Writing Month contest (which has no winners).  I got to the goal of 50,000 words yesterday.

One of the main questions that is asked in my novel (which may or may not ever see the light of day) is this: What would happen if a wonderful cure came along that would take away most, if not all sickness? Remember, it is fiction.

The answer is, of course: utter chaos and collapse of our system.

Our system is designed to deal with sickness.  It is designed to fix problems.  If a wonder-drug came along, here's what I think would happen:

  • Pharmaceutical companies and hospitals would have to oppose it, as they would suffer financial ruin if people became healthy.
  • Doctors, especially those focused on chronic illness or treatment of serious problems, would take a huge cut in pay.
  • A huge number of healthy people would enter the workforce, disrupting an already fragile economy.

Human stupidity, of course, would remain.  There would be some work for those in the medical profession, but only a fraction of what is there now.

I don't think anyone expects this "wonder drug" to appear any time soon, so what's the point of entertaining this scenario?  Looking at the extremes can often give us insight into our current problems. One of our biggest problems is this: our system thrives on its own failure.  If we fail to keep people well, the healthcare economy improves.  There are more jobs to be had to treat and take care of these sick people. There is more need for new drugs to treat the increased number of sick people. Hospital beds are full, and doctors are busy.

Life is good for those of us in medicine when we fail.

To read the rest of this blog, click here.

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