The health burdens of the rich and famous–Sharon’s travail

Reading about Prime Minister Sharon recalls to me similar death watches for Franco and Tito. I believe Chevy Chase spoofed the situation in a “news” report on Saturday Night Live reporting that President Franco after a long drawn out illness was still alive.

An advance directive is the proper way to manage end of life situations. It helps your family and physicians make the right decision.

Continuing with the theme of being rich doesn’t mean you have good care here is another aspect of the problem. In 1980 the recently deposed Shah of Iran arrived in Panama after being expelled from the U.S. Our government was concerned about the safety of U.S. hostages there and asked the Shah to leave and Panama was chosen as his destination.

The Shah had a lymphoma that was progressing and Panama was felt to have good medical facilities that could easily deal with it. Indeed the Panamanian physicians were quite excellent–mostly U.S. trained and board certified, many from the most prestigious programs in the states. The Shah however was not satisfied and arranged for Michael De Bakey, a well known heart surgeon, to come and perform a splenectomy–a relatively simple surgical procedure. Unfortunately, because of the Shah’s medical team’s precipitous dismissal of local physicians and facilities as inadequate, no Panamanian facility would agree to allow the procedure to be done. The U.S. facility in Panama, Gorgas Hospital, was suggested as being appropriate by the Shah’s team but because of the political environment at the time they were advised to go elsewhere. The Shah went to Egypt had the splenectomy and died shortly thereafter.

There is no moral to these stories but simply an observation that wealth and power does not guarantee proper treatment and may in reality get in the way.

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