Brett Hetherington

Banner photos: Cornelia Kraft

A very personal reason

  [This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, March 2018.]

 

 

If you are a regular reader of this column you might remember several articles I’ve written in support of the public health system over the last few years.


This month I have an interest that is particularly close to home because I am just two days away from having a kidney transplant in Bellvitge Hospital at l'Hospitalet de Llobregat, just outside Barcelona. The organ donor is my wife Paula so I now have another reason to be grateful to her, apart from putting up with me for the last 25 years.


We only have to look at the United States of America to witness the hideous tragedies that unfold when there is no universal public health scheme to protect those who cannot afford to pay for private medical insurance.


According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, “the first-year billed charges for a kidney transplant are more than US$262,000.” On top of this, the drugs that are needed after the operation, including anti-rejection drugs and other medications are estimated at about US$3,000 a month.


In my case, probably just like many others where we are lucky enough to live, the financial burden on my family and I will be only limited to some loss of income because I won’t be able to work for a few weeks or a month or so.


If I was living in the USA I could well face the prospect of being heavily in debt for the rest of my life or even completely devastated. This, purely because I have had the misfortune to inherit a genetic fault.


As one American reported recently, “after we went through all of our savings, all of our retirement, and all of the equity in our house, we filed for bankruptcy.” Sadly, these kinds of situations are as common as hot dogs and apple pie in the USA.


New schemes have helped some people to a limited extent in the under the Affordable Care Act and so-called ‘Obama Care’ state and federal funding but the Trump administration is determined to end these programs.


Republican party members of congress have their eyes equally fixed on ensuring that the private health industry completely dominates patient treatment and that increases its ability to make a healthy profit from unhealthy people. At the moment there are still 27 million Americans without the insurance that is necessary to get looked after properly.


It’s very easy to take what we have for granted in this country. Personally, I have no problem at all paying my share of taxes provided that it goes to vital services like health, education or other human infrastructure.


It is the mark of a civilised society that it looks after its lower income earners or those who make next to nothing. Having a health problem should never be a passport to financial misery.


These are the kind of thoughts I have as I think about what I am facing in the coming weeks. I am extremely thankful to my donor but also thankful to all those ordinary people who both fund and fight for the continuation of a quality public health system. Long may it continue to help people like me who need it.