Sunday, July 01, 2007

How government made my earache worse than it had to be

My right ear started feeling a little tender Friday afternoon and had occasional jolts of pain. I figured it was the first stage of an infection and bought some over-the-counter ear drops, which relieved the pain along with hydrogen peroxide and vodka rinses. I just didn't have time to call a hundred people to get a referral to an ear-nose-throat specialist, and it was possible my body could take care of the infection anyway. We don't notice that our bodies constantly fight infections, because our immune systems are pretty good and take care of most bacteria before we notice anything. But late last night, my ear canal suddenly swelled almost completely shut, and I had to go to the emergency room.

The doctor prescribed 800 mg doses of Motrin, Amoxycillin tablets, and Neomycin/Polymyxin B drops. Now, in a true free market system, I could have bought the stronger painkillers and antibiotics myself -- on Friday, which would have killed the infection early on and saved me unnecessary pain last night. Taking antibiotics early would have also saved the health care system the hundreds of dollars that my ER visit cost. Remember, even if your insurance covers everything, even if you don't have a co-pay, you are still paying for every last dollar via your health care premiums. Don't delude yourself otherwise. And don't delude yourself that your insurer won't raise your premiums when they start paying out more than what you pay in premiums. They're in business to make a profit, not be charitable.

Proponents of the nanny state, part of the subset of the state-worshipping population, would argue that a medical layman like me wouldn't know enough to buy what's right. These are the same who want us to be protected from Adjustable Rate Mortgages or raw milk, because we supposedly are too stupid to assume risk for ourselves. Actually, I already knew that I needed both topical and oral antibiotics, which carry relatively low risk in normal dosage. Topical antibiotics are sufficient for most ear infections, but for a couple of weeks I've had slightly swollen lymph nodes by my left ear and on the left side of the back of my neck. That's not uncommon at all and merely means your body is fighting an infection, and you rarely need to worry unless there's pain or a high fever. However, with the the coincidence of my ear infection, the doctor felt that an oral antibiotic would be prudent in addition to topical, exactly as I wanted in the first place. I didn't need to go to medical school to know I'd also need an antibiotic to work within my bloodstream, not just on the surface of the infection.

Government wants to protect us from ourselves, and no reasonable person has any basis to argue for it. Morally speaking, it's criminal to prevent people from doing what they want to do with their own bodies, when they harm no one else. Practically speaking, when government denies people the right to get new stem cell treatments for failing hearts or new clot-buster drugs for strokes,, or when government denies me the right to buy antibiotics in an early stage, it protects a few people who might have killed themselves via their own choices and theirs alone, while making me and countless others suffer (and sometimes die) unnecessarily for the sake of others' stupidity.

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