An Illinois physician is arguing that actress Natasha Richardson might have survived her skiing accident if it had occurred in the United States rather than Canada. Explains Dr. Cory Franklin:
Canadian health care de-emphasizes widespread dissemination of technology like CT scanners and quick access to specialists like neurosurgeons. While all the facts of Richardson’s medical care haven’t been released, enough is known to pose questions with profound implications.
In the U.S. Richardson likely could have been both diagnosed locally and flown to emergency care in a nearby city. Adds Franklin:
What would have happened at a US ski resort? It obviously depends on the location and facts, but according to a colleague who has worked at two major Colorado ski resorts, the same distance from Denver as Mt. Tremblant is from Montreal, things would likely have proceeded differently.
Assuming Richardson initially declined medical care here as well, once she did present to caregivers that she was suffering from a possible head trauma, she would’ve been immediately transported by air, weather permitting, and arrived in Denver in less than an hour.
If this weren’t possible, in both resorts she would’ve been seen within 15 minutes at a local facility with CT scanning and someone who could perform temporary drainage until transfer to a neurosurgeon was possible.
If she were conscious at 4 p.m., she’d most likely have been diagnosed and treated about that time, receiving care unavailable in the local Canadian hospital. She might’ve still died or suffered brain damage but her chances of surviving would have been much greater in the United States.
American medicine is often criticized for being too specialty-oriented, with hospitals “duplicating” too many services like CT scanners. This argument has merit, but those criticisms ignore cases where it is better to have resources and not need them than to need resources and not have them.
Obviously, Americans also die needlessly from substandard care on occasion. But where government controls the entire health care system, politics is likely to trump consumers from beginning to end. And that is evidently the case in Canada, where pets typically have speedier access than humans to many of the technological advances that Americans take for granted. Policymakers must not forget the needs of patients as they rush to “reform” the U.S. health care system.