A horrifying example of our broken health care system gone wrong took place in Yelm, Washington recently. A man on Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, attacked and nearly killed his wife of 60 years after being diagnosed for depression and being placed on Wellbutrin. This is one more example of our health care system gone horribly wrong and a graphic example of how the Bush administration places a price on human life. This forces me to rethink my support of laws against the so-called hard drugs like meth and cocaine.
In what would be a horrifying nightmare for anybody in this community, Eric Attwood, in the middle of the night, took a knife and tried to stab his wife. He stabbed her once, but then she got away and got help. Now, Attwood and his wife are separated by court order and he is charged with attempted first-degree murder.
Our broken health care system:
I have been around people with depression for a long time. From what I have learned, extreme stress causes depression. One of our neighbors drove to a friend’s driveway and shot himself after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. He wrote a note saying he did this because he didn’t want his wife to find him. One of my best friends did something similar; she was on the basketball team and she attacked one of her teammates and her assistant coach while on some kind of anti-depressant. There was a 71 year-old man who had been angry and bitter for many years after being disowned by his Catholic family; he drove to an Abbey 20 miles South of where I lived and shot three monks and wounded another before killing himself.
This kind of stress can be caused by shaky finances; the Attwoods had been having financial and medical difficulties over the past six months:
The previous six months had not been easy. Health and financial problems had overcome Eric Attwood, a retired Boeing draftsman, and he sank into an uncharacteristic depression. Uncertain of what to do, his daughter took him to a Yelm family doctor, who put him on the anti-
Twelve days after taking the first pill, Eric attacked his wife, and was planning to kill himself, court documents say. His family, now aware of recent governmental warnings about potential risks associated with antidepressants, suspect there is a connection between the drug and Eric’s violent outburst.
And Attwood has a lot more money than many of us. The median salary of a Boeing employee is between $50-60,000. If our broken health care system can wipe out the life savings of someone who worked hard and played by the rules for many years and got himself a healthy salary, then how much worse is it for people who make much less? I have not saved up a lot of money, and having low cash causes me a lot of stress. How much more stress do you think the Attwoods had when they saw their life savings disappear before their eyes?
This is the sort of thing that is happening in homes across the country because the Bush administration is placing a price on human life and doing nothing to address the health care crisis that is plaguing our country. In the meantime, 45 million people, myself included, are without health insurance because the premiums are almost as high as a minimum wage job.
This is the sort of thing that Senator Feingold is seeking to protect us from. He is pushing for a bill which would direct states to develop plans that achieve universal health care coverage and have the government fully fund these plans.
Our health care system has failed to keep costs in check. Costs are soaring, and there is simply no way we can expect businesses to keep up. In too many cases, employers are left to offer sub par benefits, or to wonder whether they can offer any benefits at all. Employers cannot be the sole provider of health care when these costs are rising faster than inflation. What America needs is an approach that will provide meaningful reform to assist our ailing health care system. Without true reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket, and rates of uninsurance will keep growing.
All Americans deserve adequate health care and it is far past time for Congress to take action on this pressing issue. I support a state-based, American-style approach to health care reform, where each state, with the federal government’s help, comes up with a plan to make sure that all of its residents have health care coverage. Such an approach would provide universal health care for all Americans by encouraging the flexibility and creativity that are necessary to ensure nationwide access to high-quality, affordable health care.
This is not a partisan political issue. Senators on both sides of the aisle want to see this problem addressed; Feingold and Senator Lindsey Graham have sponsored a bill which would require Congressional debate on overhauling our health care. This is necessary because the Bush administration and the Senate and House leadership will not allow any kind of meaningful debate on this issue. After all, as today’s NYT editorial points out, the Bush administration thinks you should just shut up and trust them to know what is best for you. In health care, there is no exception.
This is not the way the Attwood’s marriage was supposed to end; from the article:
And at a time when Margaret Attwood, 79, and her husband should be enjoying their grandchildren and their twilight years together, they are coping with a horror that has torn their lives apart.
For the first time in their 60-year marriage, they are apart, prevented from seeing each other by a court order that is standard in domestic violence cases.
The separation is breaking Margaret Attwood’s heart, and family members worry that it is beginning to crumble the inner strength that enabled her to survive the unfathomable knife attack.
“This has been a very sad part of our lives that I never expected to happen,” she said, while sitting down with her two daughters, Hilary Carlson and Jenny Rapuzzi, during an interview last month at Hilary’s home in Yelm.
“We just still can’t believe it,” said Jenny, 52, who lives in Lake Forest Park. “It was a nightmare then, and it is a nightmare now.”
Margaret Attwood clenches a tissue and occasionally sobs as she recalls what happened. A pink scar, about 7 inches long, traces down the right side of her neck.
Rethinking the drug war.
Horrifying news stories like this are the sort of thing that force me to rethink my support of laws against meth, crack, and cocaine. My rationale for supporting them is that these drugs cause addicts to commit violent behavior against the ones they love and commit other crimes when they get addicted to these drugs. But Wellbutrin, and other drugs like them, are totally legal with a prescription. Not only that, I read the comment section of the Olympian article. Two or three people in that section reported experiencing similar effects when taking the drug or knowing someone who had. So, why are drugs like this legal, while crack, meth, and coke are not?
I suggest that people are not aware enough of the risks of taking any kind of drugs. People start smoking, not aware that it might give them lung cancer. People trust their doctors absolutely when they give them a free sample of Wellbutrin, not aware that it could turn them into psychopaths.
So, maybe we should decriminalize such drugs and meth, crack, and cocaine. But different drugs have different effects on different people. Someone could take LSD and it would not harm them (I know someone like that). But someone else could take it and it would kill them. So, there should be a licensing system for such drugs.
I recall comprehensive sex-ed classes, where graphic images of sexually transmitted diseases are shown to kids for the first time. This has a huge impact and drops the teen pregnancy rate. We should do something similar – show people graphic images of someone suffering the worst effects of crack, cocaine, and meth. Licenses would be issued only to those people who understand the risks of such drugs because they have sat through such sessions. Then, they would be free to make their own decisions. You could only sell drugs if you have a license and sell drugs to people with a license. All of the money formerly spent on prisoners would be spent on treatment and rehab instead. People who have experienced the bad effects of such drugs could be paid to tour the country and talk to kids and tell them that it’s their choice in the end.
Everybody wins under this plan. Drug rates drop, people turn their lives around, police are free to stop the real criminals and terrorists plotting to ruin our way of life.
And prescription drugs like Wellbutrin could not be sold or dispensed unless doctors made patients aware of all the side effects, including psychopathic behavior. The whole goal of this program would be buyer awareness – you buy a drug, any kind of drug, totally aware of the risks you are taking. Prescription drugs could still not be sold expect with a prescription from a doctor. But the difference is that doctors would have to make every patient aware of the risks.
If an unlicensed customer buys a dangerous drug and it doesn’t affect them, no problem. No harm, no foul. But if a customer gets killed, the seller could be held liable for not informing them of the risks and for selling them a drug even though they didn’t have a license. Families and loved ones could sue in court. The same principle would apply for drugs like Wellburtin – if a customer takes the drug without understanding the risks, the doctor does all they can, and the customer engages in psychopathic behavior, then the company is at fault – they can be sued by family members for pain, suffering, and medical bills.