Health Politics Women

Women’s Health. Pap Smears. Lying. Health Care.

In the car, with a bunch of women going to New York City, the topic of women’s health came up. Horror stories, some with happy endings kept returning in between laughter and personal insults. The fact that you can have a ton of pap smears, and still have undetected cancer was mentioned.

“You have to have a sonogram to detect some of those things, not a pap smear.”

“Yes, but no way my insurance will cover it.”

“All you have to do is fake your history and say your mother had ovarian cancer and you can get it.”

“Are you telling me you did that?”

“Sure, I absolutely did. I told them my mother died of it when she was forty.”

“Is she dead?”


“That’s really bad juju. How can you do that?”

“It’s easy. I sat there and said my mother died of ovarian cancer. And he said, ‘Ok, we need to start doing sonograms.’ Are you kidding me? Why wouldn’t I do it? I get sonograms every two years because I said that, and frankly, I will have the whole family expire if it means getting the health care I need to be healthy.”

Now, I get that lying is a bad thing. I also believe that anyone who tells you they never lie is lying. But that’s another story. Here is the ethical question however. Should we get sonograms rather than pap smears if we have no history of cancer? Does the cost differential and the result differential make it appropriate? One of the things our country does is spend millions (literally) to prolong a life even one month.

Case in point. I have a friend whose father was very sick for a long time. Toward the end, they were doing dialysis on him once a week, using ambulances to transfer him hundreds of miles for tests, and in between he was sort of lying there waiting for the next treatment. I know it cost the system millions of dollars to keep him going the extra two years he gained from all the treatments. And, the last three months alone must have been a million dollars. It’s my understanding, and I am not as well-read as I should be, that if he were living in France, it would not have gone that way. And, to be honest, if the family had been obligated to pay the cost, I’m not sure they would have done it that way either.

Me? I’m all about the pain factor. When I arrived at the hospital to have my daughter, I said to the nurse, “Look, I’m here for pain medication and then I’m willing to give birth to what I know will be a fabulous, brilliant daughter.” She looked at me with disdain and disgust. But, seriously, I think pain management should be the goal, not extra time at all cost. But where the line is for deciding when you move to pain management from life prolonging treatments is far beyond my non-Mensa mind.

So, if we didn’t do the prolong your life thing, and instead everyone could get sonograms rather than pap smears without lying and possibly going to hell because of it, would that be better? These questions are burning right now with the Obama Pres heading around the country selling his health plan to come.

I have never seen an issue so confusing come before the country.

Prolong life at all costs? What to perform on whom for prevention? It’s not just about the system and getting the companies to stop doing whatever the hell they are doing that is costing so much. It’s also about such ethical issues that have no answers.

As for the lying about mothers dying of cancer they didn’t have? I’m in.

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