Photo by Olga Guryanova on Unsplash

What if we ran an ER the same way we run our government?

Janette DeFelice, MD, MA
Nov 8 · 3 min read

I often think about what if we approached an emergency medical situation that could kill someone the same way we approach policy that actually is killing people. Say, someone comes into the ER having a STEMI, the type of myocardial infarction (heart attack) that can kill you in, well, a heartbeat. Imagine if the physician says, “Ok everyone. Let’s take our time and work with the blood clot that’s cutting of the oxygen supply to half of this guy’s heart. Maybe we can compromise.”

Just so we’re all on the same page, there’s no compromising with that blood clot. If the physician doesn’t get you to the cath lab pronto to restore the oxygen supply to your heart, you’re dead.

What I don’t understand is why people don’t see social policy in the same light. People are DYING as a result of not getting medical care because they can’t afford it. People are DYING on the streets in the excessive cold and the excessive heat because they can’t afford a place to live. People are DYING because pharmaceutical companies would like their highly addictive opioids distributed widely so their CEOs can make a few bucks.

Social policy, much like a STEMI, has the potential to kill.

And yet, there are those who say, let’s take it slow. Because we wouldn’t want to make those billionaires uncomfortable. I can guarantee the people who are in favor of putting the brakes on change are not the people who are suffering from what social policy has done to them or what social policy has done to their children. And donuts to dollars, I will bet you that most of the people who say this are not people of color. Or women who think for themselves. (And before you argue with me about that, read my article White Women’s Dependence on White Male Supremacy.)

Personally, I’ve had it. I’m done. The more I learn about how these people got their billions and how tightly they hoard, the more angry I get. But, the argument goes, they give to philanthropy…. Let me tell you, if I could give the equivalent of the pittance they give and get all the glory they get for doing it, I would “give” to philanthropy to. When I give the same percentage of my wealth to a worthy cause, no one bats an eye.

This tweet added fuel to my flame this morning:

Let’s put this into perspective. Bill Gates recently donated $4.6 billion — “his biggest donation in 17 years.” He’s worth a cool $108 billion. That means his biggest donation in almost two decades was worth 4% of his wealth. My husband and I currently have $1692 in the bank (no, I’m not going to link to my bank account). If we gave away 4% of our wealth, that would equal $67.68. The money left in our bank account goes to food, mortgage, kids’ clothing, gas, car payment, insurance, student loans, etc. At the end of it all, we’re left with…wait for it…a credit card bill. While Gates’ wealth compounds — his money makes its own money — we end up paying interest. But I don’t have to tell you. You’re in the same boat.

Yet we continue to worship wealth in this country. We continue to support policy that buttresses the bank accounts of those who really don’t need any help in that department. And we continue to ignore the fact that there are actual human beings that are suffering and dying as a result of said policy. Why?

The popular answer is that most Americans don’t need these problems fixed. Most Americans just want “sensible” this and “moderate” that.

But when you go to the ER suffering a STEMI (remember that heart attack that could kill you in a heartbeat?), there’s someone there to make sure you don’t die. Is that what most Americans want? No. Truth is, most Americans don’t even know you exist.

Just because most Americans don’t know the people who are suffering as a result of inhumane social policy, does that mean we shouldn’t fix it?

Janette DeFelice, MD, MA

Written by

Author of “Delia Rising” and “Resistance Essays from the Heartland.” Degrees in poli sci, humanities, and medicine. Mom of twins. Doesn’t suffer fools.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade