Media Ignored Criticisms of Socialized Medicine in Story of Quarantined TB Patient

AP's screen cap of Speaker

The media was fascinated with the story of the Americans in Michael Moore's "Sicko," who left the US for medical treatment in Cuba, a country with socialized medicine, and it was used to highlight the failings of the US health care system. When the exact opposite occurred, and an American fled Italy's socialized medicine for medical treatment in the privatized care of the US, the media decded that angle was no longer significant. 

In the coverage of Andrew Speaker’s TB quarantine, very little was mentioned about why he was so determined to return to the US that he ignored the CDC’s command to remain in Italy to treat his life-threatening illness, which is the most serious form of TB and is resistant to most drugs.

Speaker was so adamant about getting out of Italy and returning to the US health care system because Italy's was inadequate for his needs. The AP recounted the Diane Sawyer interview on ABC where Andrew Speaker said the doctors at a Denver research hospital said the US was his only hope (emphasis mine throughout):

"Before I left, I knew that it was made clear to me, that in order to fight this, I had one shot, and tha was going to be in Denver," he said. If doctors in Europe tried to treat him and it went wrong, he said, "it's very real that I could have died there."

Speaker further explained to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution why he believed his life was in danger:

The man said he and his private doctor — with the agreement of government health officials — made plans for him to undergo cutting-edge treatment with specialists at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver after his honeymoon.

The man said he's been told the course of treatment could take 18 months — and that the only place that can do it is the Denver hospital.

According to the AJC, a CDC staff member told Speaker that he wasn’t allowed to fly home on a commercial jet and there “wasn’t funding in the budget” to fly him home on a CDC jet. Instead, they said that “he'd need to turn himself into Italian health authorities the next morning and agree to go into isolation and treatment in that country for an indefinite period of time."

The article hit the real reason that he ducked the CDC’s orders to stay in Italy:

The man said he wants people to understand he sneaked back into the United States because he feared for his life. An unsuccessful treatment in Italy would have doomed him, he said, because he said thesy lacked the expertise.  


To help understand why Speaker took the risk, read this first-hand account of Italy’s socialized health-care system. Like people fleeing a burning house, the trend in many countries with socialized medicine, particularly across Europe, is to move away from state-run health care toward some amount of privatization.  Disregarding the warnings of professionals, the media are running toward that burning house of socialized medicine.

The media ignored the reasoning behind why Speaker acted in what they presented as recklessly risking the spread of a deadly disease. Surely, it would be preferable to undergo free, or at the very least, cheap treatment in a country with what the World Health Organization calls the second best health care system in the world, right behind France, than it would to be to chance being treated in number 37—the US (which ranks below Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Morocco, Dominica and Costa Rica—all WHO examples of better health care). Instead he risked arrest to find his way to America, the home of what the media characterize as a capitalist rip-off.

Too bad the media wouldn’t investigate the claimed failings of Italy’s socialized medicine as they did the claimed failings of America’s privatized medicine.

Contact Lynn with tips or complaints at: tvisgoodforyou2 AT  yahoo DOT com

Health Care Europe Cuba ABC Colorado Atlanta Journal/Constitution Associated Press