Democracy Now! | “Sicko” Interviewees Tell Harrowing First-Hand Stories of U.S. Health Care Failures
this testimony by a former medical reviewer for Humana speaks to exactly the sort of hands-tied, impossibly inhumane, technological (and beurocratic) distancing that I've been thinking about as the basis for my film on the El Paso cleansing station.
AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, Doctor Linda Peeno spoke about her work as a medical reviewer for Humana.
LINDA PEENO: I should say right from the beginning that when you see the film this afternoon, you’re gonna think that I’m an imposter, because when Michael's team called me about a year ago to talk to me about the film, I was actually so despondent about health care that I couldn't give an interview. So they had to use the old material. And so it was just so exciting for me to see all those nurses today. I just cannot tell you. After twenty years of trying to get people to pay attention to exactly what Michael said, and what shocked me into this and the thing that will be the focus in the movie is that as a young, naive physician twenty years ago, I realized that with just a flick of a pen I could condemn a person to death and did, all because he was expensive. And I have already seen references to the fact that that case is too old, it is a mere anecdote, all the things that came out when I testified eleven years ago before Congress. But, when I testified in 1996 in May before Congress about this case, I realized just the other day as I was thinking about this, I could give exactly the same testimony again, exactly, word for word, I would only have to add that things have become unimaginably worse. I think the thing that had begun to defeat me over the past couple of years is the thousands and thousands of e-mails I would get from people every week, to the point where I couldn't even stand to turn my computer on.
I think that we'll hear a lot about how managed care is going away, these horror stories don't occur anymore. But they do and they occur in worse and worse forms. I think we will, for all the humor and for all the excitement, I think we have to remember that, for me, the reason why the Heart case was so important is because it is really the tip of a huge pyramid of preventable suffering and preventable death that has occurred over twenty years, really thirty years, because the HMO Act was passed in 1973. There are untold people whose lives have been affected by this.
I think when Michael said that we can't just tinker with health policy here and there a little piece of legislation a little patient right’s protection. It is even more fundamental than that. I think that we have created a culture that devalues life and devalues the care of other people and our care for one another. I am thrilled that we are here today with nurses. I hope there are doctors here. I know there are doctors in the audience I met two that are friends of mine. But I hope there are other doctors here that are going to represent the kind of healing and caring for medicine and their work that we need. Because I think that the thing that has almost defeated me is we're losing the heart and soul of medicine. That is a dangerous condition that we are going to pay dearly for, and are paying dearly for and maybe with some of our own lives. I read in one of the commentaries about the movie so far is that this isn't a middle class problem. Not only is it a middle class problem, you know, I ran into somebody just a couple of months ago, a businessman, a wife who is a professional, you know, they were living the American dream, big house, private school for kids, you know, everything imaginable until one of their daughters became ill in college. They began to lose everything. So I think that at every point, anybody who feels comfortable because they think they're protected by money, or insurance, or power, or anything else will be badly mistaken.
I think the one last thing that I would like to say with regard to the movie is that I hope it expands beyond health care. I think Michael is right. We are an individualistic society that doesn't feel any responsibility for one another. And you know, I have spent the past twenty years seeing how health care system is a microcosm for the other systems. I hope this movie helps us to cause us to ask how we value one another in our lives, in our deaths. What values do we want to have? And why do individual human stories fail to move us? The perplexing question to me still is why did it not move people in 1996 when I, as a doctor, testified about how easy it was to cause the death of somebody? And then as I proceeded to spend ten years trying to get people to understand what was happening. So I think this is our moment in time. I don't think we will ever have another moment. I would like to end with a quote from Abraham Joshua [unknown] a theologian that says, “Few are guilty but all are responsible.”