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My Son's Encounter With Government-Regulated Healthcare and the Drug War. What Saved Him Was His Death.

Gary North
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Dec. 10, 2009

My adult son, Caleb North, suffered from an undiagnosed and fatal affliction. No physician knew what it was, so we did not know it was fatal until the day the police discovered him dead in his apartment. He was still on his feet.

How was this possible? Because he had fallen face-down in the kitchen sink. He had walked over to the sink. A seizure killed him, as far as we know. He had no warning.

I have described his symptoms in his obituary. They began with tingling in his heels. Over the next four years, the tinglings turned into spasms. The limited zone of afflicion kept going higher as the months went on until the spasms entered his skull. His eyes would flutter -- not his eyelids: his eyes. Finally, the condition killed him.

Because of the drug laws in this country, he was repeatedly told by physicians that he was faking his symptoms, that he was just after drugs. They would not treat him. One vicious female stood in front of a room full of patients and announced: "You're just after drugs." My wife told me that later. I am not one for suing, but in retrospect, we should have taken that harpy before the medical ethics (an oxymoron, I know) commission.

One physician gave him a drug that had a little effect in stopping the spasms. When my wife called for a refill, the phone lady went to the physician. She came back: "Your son is not a patient any longer."

The existing system is callous and morally corrupt. This is what state coercion has produced. It is going to get much worse.

The drug laws pressure users to lie to physicians, who have a monopoly over writing prescriptions. So, physicians are afraid of lawsuits for supplying illegal drugs. They train themselves to be callous. They sent my son to his death without a twinge of concern.

Only one physician tried to help him. He does not take government money or third-party insurance payments. It's a pure fee-for-service arrangement. He was my wife's physician. He is as far outside the medical establishment as he can be and not lose his license from the state.

My son was at the library and suffered a collapse. Someone called the emergency ambulance. They were loading him onto the gurney when he recovered, he later told us. They told him they were taking him to the hospital. He consented. That was a big mistake. The bill would be huge.

At the hospital, they ran him through tests. He naively consented. They gave him a CAT scan. They said he was fine.

To get his clothes back, some non-medical emplyee told him he had to sign a release form. There is no such requirement to get your clothes. When he signed, he accepted the bill. After that, it was all hearsay as to why he had to sign.

He had no insurance. The bill was large enough that he could not pay it. Had he refused to sign the papers, they would have had to negotiate a price. Once you sign, the hospital can charge pretty much what it wants to. Suckers pay. Wise people hire lawyers and negotiate.

On the day of his funeral, I was driving. My wife had his cell phone. The phone rang. It was the bill collector at the hospital. I heard my wife's side of the conversation. She explained that he was dead and that she was on her way to his funeral. Then she said, "I do not know." She hung up.

She told me what the woman had said when she heard that we were on the way to his funeral. "Who's going to pay this bill?"

The public hates the system. The public does not understand that physicians will be squeezed by government health care and insurance. This will lead to rationing and bureaucratic care. But the public's anger over the system is beyond the political point of no return.

The public knows that the present health care system is corrupt. Voters don't know the half of it. This is a system in which hospitals send inflated bills to families without insurance coverage, while letting the indigent in for free and negotiating with insurance companies and lawyers.

The system is corrupt. It is going to be made even more corrupt, with worse service, by endless government meddling and rationing.

It all began with John D. Rockefeller and Abraham Flexner in 1910. Flexner was not a physician. He was an educational reformer. The Flexner Report promoted state-licensed medical schools to control the supply of physicians. The report persuaded state governments to regulate medicine and medical schools. The system gave physicians an oligopoly: control over rival practitioners. Nye Bevan was in charge of setting up he National Health Service in Britain. In 1948, the first NHS hospital opened. He was asked how he got Britain's medical association to consent to the National Health Service. He said he persuaded the leadership. He replied: "I stuffed their mouths with gold."

That is what Flexner offered physicians. They took the bait. They walked into the trap. I described this strategy in my 1978 article, "Walking into a Trap." There is now no escape.

Like Esau, the medical guild sold its birthright for a mess of pottage. The government promised to control the supply of entrants, giving those who go through the hoops an oligopoly. The hoops are now nooses.

If you take the government's nickel, you also take its noose.

I offer this advice to young adults: Do not go to medical school.

I offer the rest of you this advice: Do not get sick.

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