Medicine as Commerce

Paul Farmer tells the story of three patients; Brenda, Sanoit, and Olga, who were afflicted with illness and encountered a great deal of circumstantial hardship in seeking medical care. Farmer uses these cases to highlight inequalities in access and distribution of health care. Farmer aims to provide a comprehensive critique of the social injustice brought about by “for-profit health care.” This article further discusses the concern of a health care system seeking revenue.

If structural violence and inequalities are to be combated, a reevaluation of medical ethics must ensue. The medical field cannot adhere to the values of a market economy by which the rest of the country operates. Labeling medical care as a commodity inherently implies that this service should be available only to those willing and able to pay. With the exception of the United States, developed countries across the globe have recognized health care as a human right and not a profit driven business. – This video published by the World Health Organization discusses the epidemic of communicable diseases, including diarrheal diseases, in Somalia. Much of Paul Farmers work brings attention to the growing inequalities that provide health care to those who can pay for it, ignoring those humans desperate for health care but unable to pay for it. “We thus find ourselves at a crossroads: health care can be considered a commodity to be sold, or it can be considered a basic social right.” (Farmer 175).

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