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Our Malady

Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary

By Timothy Snyder
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  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Our Malady by Timothy Snyder

Our Malady (2020) explores why the American health care system not only fails to keep people healthy but also denies their freedom. It identifies the shortcomings of the present system, the dire ramifications, and why other countries don’t suffer the same fate.

Key idea 1 of 7

America’s health-care system is failing to do its job.

December 29th, 2019, was almost the day the author, Timothy Snyder, died. Just after midnight, he was admitted into the emergency room of a New Haven hospital. He could barely move. His hands and feet tingled, and he had severe tremors. He didn’t know it at the time, but an abscess in his liver was pumping infectious bacteria into his bloodstream.

It took an unacceptable nine hours for someone to read Snyder’s medical records properly, even though he’d had the foresight to bring them with him to the ER. Snyder’s appendix had been removed at the same hospital two weeks earlier. His surgeon had noted a lesion on his liver but failed to mention it to him. If the ER doctors had realized sooner, he would’ve been treated quickly and effectively. Instead, they downplayed his symptoms and suggested he had the flu, even when he started losing consciousness. As a result, he nearly died of sepsis. 

The key message here is: America’s health-care system is failing to do its job.

Despite its overall wealth, America is a sick nation. In recent years, life expectancy has actually dropped instead of increasing as it has in many other wealthy nations. According to a study conducted by Moody’s Analytics in 2019, US millennials are set to die younger than their parents or grandparents, even though they’re spending more on health care. Something is terribly wrong. 

Medicine should extend people’s lives. Instead, Americans can expect to live an average of four years fewer than people in comparable countries. They’ll even be outlived by people in poorer countries like Barbados, Costa Rica, and Chile. These countries don’t have better doctors or knowledge. They have better health-care systems, which extend people’s lifespans.

The novel coronavirus pandemic highlighted the systemic flaws in American health care. In other rich countries, like Germany and Japan, people received better treatment and had greater access to information about the virus, leading to fewer fatalities. These countries focused on health. America focused on profit.

When a government doesn’t prioritize health, people pay with their lives. In America, the government's handling of the coronvirus had cost the nation 150,000 lives by June 2020. The blinks ahead will look at how and why this happened.


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