Shakespeare, Health-care and Death as Consumer Items

To die by thee, were but to die in jest; From thee to die, were torture more than death.To die by thee, were but to die in jest;
From thee to die, were torture
more than death
O, let me stay, befall what may befall!

(King Henry VI, part 2, sct 3, sc. 2)

Comment.  In the beginning there was the word. Less widely perceived is the importance of how the word is used at the beginning.  Here is an example and we should inform our international visitors that what in most country is called ‘medicine’ in the USA is called ‘health care’. And the practice of medicine is called the ‘health-care industry’. There are some who may argue that medicine and health-care are synonyms.  If so why “health-care industry” and not “medicine industry”? You probably know the answer. Words have both a lexical and an emotional component.  There is something dissonant in the implied (verbal) merger of ‘medicine’ and  ‘industry’. ‘Medicine’ suggests healing but healing as an industry suggests free-market, trickle-down economics, competition, survival of the fittest and salesmanship.

Talking of which (salesmanship) Shakespeare has Biron say in Love’s Labours Lost, “To things of sale a seller’s praise belong.” And associating medicine with a purchasable service lowers its status and makes it comparable, say, to exchanging cash for a hair-cut.  Instead “Health-care” removes any lingering reservation about what the service is about and opens the gate of the wondrous world of commerce and his inseparable brothers and sisters, propaganda, public relations, advertising and return of investment.

Propaganda, as we know, has the marvelous power of distorting the truth, telling lies and masking paradoxes. One of the most obvious paradoxes is hidden in the very frequent TV-broadcast  messages about doctors warning about this or that danger to our health. It is laughable hypocrisy.

The “health-care” industry thrives on illnesses. Should some reader have doubts, the pharmaceutical industry puts out scores of new medicines every year. Not long ago at a trade-conference , the CEO of a huge pharmaceutical consortium, let it slip from his tongue that it is crucial for the industry to find new illnesses. The instances are too many to list and any web search will find ample illustrations.

Shakespeare, Health-care and hospital as a consumer experienceStill, selling medicine for newly discovered illnesses may not be enough. Next comes competition among hospitals, but how do you ‘sell’ a hospital? By converting an occurrence that should be avoidable at all costs into a ‘consumer’ experience and turning any ‘customer’ into a ‘satisfied customer’.  Hence, the advertisement published in this blog, mailed to thousands of potential ‘customers’.

All this, of course, makes medicine – oops, health-care – the most expensive in the world. One day in a hospital puts the customer back $4,000.00, but heck, isn’t expensive consumption one of the great blessings of life? Ralph Nader, one of the warriors for US health-care reform coined the definition (for the US health-care system), “Pay or Die”. And statistics about people who die or get close to death to avoid the related health-care expenses are horrifying.

But for this too there are remedies. Even death is a commercial proposition. After reaching the venerable age of 45-50 the ‘consumer’ is offered a variety of (expensive) choices. And I am not referring to the plutocrats who have their bodies frozen waiting for their return to life and for the onset of what will be called – no doubt –the “Resurrection Industry’.

Tips for use. When your girlfriend shows concern about your health or worries about your safety.

In the play. The banished Suffolk takes leave of Queen Margaret, wife of King Henry VI and his lover. His wish to ‘die in jest’ by her will not be fulfilled. The sailors who should ferry him to France and safety recognize him as an enemy of the state and chop his head off.


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