Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Health Care Reform

It's probably too late, but I want to offer my own modest proposals for health care reform in the United States. Perhaps they could be amendments to some future health care bill.

First, I propose that we revive the ancient practice of incubation in sanctuaries of the healer god Asclepius. In this ritual, sufferers from various ailments spend a night sleeping on the grounds of a sanctuary. Asclepius appears to them in their dreams and performs or suggests a cure. Abundant votive offerings and inscriptions testify to the efficacy of this type of medical treatment, e.g. these tablets from Epidaurus quoted by Lionel Casson, Travel in the Ancient World (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), pp. 83-84:
  1. A man who suffered much from an ulcer on the toe was brought forth by the attendants and placed on a seat. While he slept, a serpent came forth from the dormitory and healed the ulcer with his tongue. It then glided back into the dormitory. When the man awoke he was cured, and declared that he had seen a vision; he thought a young man of goodly aspect had smeared a salve upon his toe.
  2. Lyson, a blind boy of Hermione, had his eyes licked by one of the dogs about the temple and went away whole.
  3. Gorgias of Heraclea had been wounded with an arrow in one of his lungs at a battle. Within eighteen months the wound generated so much pus that sixty-seven cups were filled with it. He slept in the temple, and in a dream it seemed to him that the god removed the barb of the arrow from this lung. In the morning he went forth whole, with the barb of the arrow in his hands.
The "Asclepius Amendment" could be implemented on the cheap. No need for high-priced hospital beds, just a few mattresses on the ground. No need for expensive, state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging machines, just some dogs and snakes. This cheese-paring, faith-based "Asclepius Amendment" should easily win the support of all types of conservatives—Republicans, baggers, birthers, chicken-hawks, fascists, neo-con-artists, Palin-ites, and other right-wing nut-jobs.

Second, I propose a pilot program based on Herodotus' description of medical care in Babylon (1.197, tr. Aubrey De Sélincourt):
They have no doctors, but bring their invalids out into the street, where anyone who comes along offers the sufferer advice on his complaint, either from personal experience or observation of a similar complaint in others. Anyone will stop by the sick man's side and suggest remedies which he has himself proved successful in whatever the trouble may be, or which he has known to succeed with other people. Nobody is allowed to pass a sick person in silence; but everyone must ask him what is the matter.
A prominent politician once claimed that it takes an entire village to raise a child. I offer this suggestion in the same spirit—it takes an entire village to heal the sick. This is a proposal more likely to gain public support than the baby-killing death panels included in the latest health care bill. Liberals of every stripe—Democrats, bleeding-hearts, commies, femi-nazis, girlie-men, Pelosi-ites, pinkos, socialists, and other left-wing moonbats—should rally behind the "Babylon Amendment".

From a public policy standpoint, these ideas would be as effective in improving health care as some measures about to be signed into law. From a scientific standpoint, they are supported by as much evidence as some treatments commonly used in the United States.

Update: Anent the "Asclepius Amendment", David Norton told me an anecdote which I hadn't heard before, but found in Anatole France, Le jardin d'Épicure (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1900), pp. 203-204: "Étant à Lourdes, au mois d'août, je visitai la grotte où d'innombrables béquilles étaient suspendues, en signe de guérison. Mon compagnon me montra du doigt ces trophées d'infirmerie et murmura à mon oreille: — Une seule jambe de bois en dirait bien davantage." That is, "Being at Lourdes in the month of August, I visited the grotto where countless crutches were hanging as evidence of healing. My companion pointed out these trophies of the infirmary and whispered in my ear: — A single wooden leg would be much more convincing."

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?