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Capitalism Is Killing Patients And Their Physicians

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opednews.com Headlined to H1 11/12/18

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From flickr.com: Capitalism isn't working {MID-324860}
Capitalism isn't working
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Reprinted from popularresistance.org

Physician burnout, depression, and suicide increasingly invade discussions within the medical field. Depression and suicide are more common among male and female physicians, with suicide rates 1.41 and 2.27 times greater than that of the general male and female populations, respectively. Though, the insults to the mental health of physicians begins much earlier in their career.

While the numbers may vary from study to study, some 28 percent of medical residents experience a major depressive episode during their training compared to 6 to 8 percent of the general population. These numbers are important, not only because suffering physicians are suffering humans in their own right, but also because this epidemic leads to poor patient care.

As a recent study out of the Stanford School of Medicine suggests, burnout and depression in physicians can lead to medical error and death. Many have tried to explain the causes of the epidemic, referencing everything from unmanageable workloads and work inefficiency, to lack of meaning in work and lack of work-life balance. Films are now being produced to shine light on the issue. In her TED talk "Why Doctors Kill Themselves," Pamela Wible points to a medical school culture of hazing and bullying that continues into residency, along with a professional culture that hinders physicians from obtaining mental health treatment.

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These factors certainly contribute to the epidemic, but when discussing physician suicide, we ignore the elephant in the room: capitalism. We are unable to recognize how the exploitation and alienation of physicians is integrally connected to this dominant economic system, but nothing could be more poignant, given in the state of the world today.

Ironically, the same destructive system that is driving physicians to extremes is also the main driver of the deterioration of health of the patients and populations, requiring patients to see physicians in the first place. The sooner we realize and confront our own exploitation, the sooner we can join in the fight to address the real driver of disease that is plaguing physicians and patients.

The System Outlined

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Busy physicians may not have time to study how the world's prevailing economic system functions, but doing so could benefit both our profession and the patients with whom we work. To briefly discuss, inside this system the working class that does not own the means of production is forced to sell its labor to an employer to survive.

A few corporations control most of the market for each of the commodities they produce. In these corporations, a very small sector of a board of directors and majority shareholders makes essentially all of the decisions on what to produce, where to produce and how to distribute profits. This puts the working class in a vulnerable position. With the ultimate goal of profit maximization, decisions are often made by the corporate class which are not in the best interest of workers and negatively affect the health of entire communities.

Outsourcing work, closing factories, creating poor working conditions to cut costs, polluting waterways and the environment--decision after decision may initially increase profits, but in the long term harms health. This harm to health can be more obvious, as when air and water are polluted, or more subtle, for example when families are put under chronic stress--which eventually leads to various forms of illness-- from poor workplace conditions or income insecurity secondary to factory closure and outsourcing.

In this system, certain "costs"--the health of families, and entire communities being destroyed--are "externalized." This means the business itself does not pay for these costs of poor societal health, which are created secondary to decisions made by business executives to increase profits. Such decisions are made by a small number of wealthy, powerful individuals pursuing their interests for greater wealth and power accumulation at expense of all else.

As economists such as Thomas Piketty have shown by combing through economic records from as far back as the 18th century, capitalism inherently generates inequality, concentrating wealth into the hands of the few at expense of everyone else. Study after study shows us that socioeconomic inequality itself is detrimental to patient health and actually increases morbidity and mortality.

Despite the negative effects , the working class today is more productive than ever , while wages remain flat (or are sometimes even lower ) and work hours continue to increase. Workers struggle to put food on the table and meet basic needs, while the ownership class continues to become richer. Workers are exploited and reduced to tools for industry, many times forced to do mundane tasks or assignments over and over. They are alienated , or separated from the control and the product of their labor, each day they go to work. Inside this system workers are ultimately reduced to mechanistic cogs producing profit for large corporations.

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This combination of being overworked and lacking true meaning and fulfillment in the work being done, drives more and more throughout both the white and blue collar sectors into despair. As Johan Hari, shows in his recent work Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression andUnexpected Solutions, workers become separated from loved ones and from things that bring them joy as they work multiple jobs for longer hours as they struggle to make ends meet.

This constant stress leads to anxiety, depression, and various other forms of disease. Meanwhile, all medicine has to offer for them are at best poor attempts--many times with questionable supporting data demonstrating efficacy-- to numb the pain that much larger systemic structures continue to create.

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Michael Pappas is a fourth-year medical student at Georgetown University and co-founder of Health Care Revolution. 

He graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a (more...)
 

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5 people are discussing this page, with 6 comments


911TRUTH

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Capitalism kills.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 12, 2018 at 5:07:47 PM

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Thomas Brown

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This article has a health care focus but goes way beyond that This is an amazing and unbelievingly accurate and articlate description of our systems directing humanity toward a much faster extinction than anyone could have ever imagined and it is within all our view now. Non thinking or unaware folks need to wake up to this reality. Savage capitalism has emerged as the most powerful governing system ever. There are far better systems available to us to create real freedom, deep deep democracy, preserve our true values of love for humanity and our surrounding natural habitat and environment while encouraging entrepeneurship and innovation that actually benefits everyone. Adam Smith never encouraged monster conglomerates and financial systems that take power and rule and govern the world. He hated monopolies of any kind. Now this governing system is so powerful it is unlikely we ever change it much less in the nect 12 years to avoid the disasterous impact of devestating climate change we now see daily. If the Trump psycophants think 500 year storms and unmanageable wild fires are an anomoly wait until they see the food shortages, mass migrations around the world and the devestation of humanity including here in the US. They are simply without mind and embody the very concept of insocience and ignorance. Power is there ONLY concern. We need to expect a spontaneous evolution of the masses where we gain immediate uderstanding of what has happened to us while we were all trying to live our lives as well as the primary causes and solutions and immediately implement them in order to stop and reverse this. This system is powerful it has become the DNA of the world. Think of savage capitalism as a religion with different sects all of which accept the primary pemise of power residing in a few directing the activities of the world. Its simply the way we all operate and accept that needs to change which is likely too late but obviously worth fighting for. Doubtful but hopeful

Submitted on Monday, Nov 12, 2018 at 7:06:41 PM

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John Jonik

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The big trick is...how to get information like this to everyone...to overcome the corporate media...which INCLUDES so-called "public" broadcasting? No informed person would accept the corporate health care system as it is....it being so threatening, economically and physically, to them and their friends and families.

How many know that for-profit health insurers are the largest bloc of investors in Wall St, including multi-billions of investments in even everyone's hated cigarettes...not to mention pesticides, fracking, GMOs, military arms, oil, and you name it? How many for-profit insurers are major owners of the toxic industries that cause so much health harm? How many take note that even "lesser evil" Democrats support that via it's "Affordable" care scam?

How many know the level of economic links their so-called "public" regulators...not to mention judges and media...have with private corporations? If the press or other media won't do anything, how about sky writer planes over the "red" states?

Ignorance ain't bliss...it's massively harmful.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 4:44:43 AM

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SHESHU BABU

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Despite the dangers of system of capitalism, it has firmly entrenched in many nations and thriving for decades. People should become alert to the situation and form mass group movements to dismantle it

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 7:02:36 AM

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SHESHU BABU

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Despite the dangers of system of capitalism, it has firmly entrenched in many nations and thriving for decades. People should become alert to the situation and form mass group movements to dismantle it

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 7:03:32 AM

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In Canada, MDs are being reduced to prescription clerks, provided as a government service to shield the drug companies from liability and promote addictions.

Submitted on Thursday, Nov 15, 2018 at 7:57:58 PM

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