Not only is the U.S. far behind other industrialized nations in providing medical care to everyone, but now it seems that we are far behind in caring for an important part of our popultion, the elderly. The speciality of geriatrics, or caring for the elderly, is one that medical students and residents in this country seldom chose. Instead, they are choosing specialities where they can make a lot of money: plastic surgery and dermatology. If you care for the elderly as a physician, the pay is low and there is a mountain of paper work if you do a good job of coordinating their care. (The same thing applies to caring for kids or adults with disabilites.)
I found an interesting article in the 10/18/06 New York Times written by Jane Gross and Laura Griffin. They note that "In 2005, there was one geriatrician for every 5,000 Americans 65 or older, a ratio that experts say is sure to worsen. Of 145 medical schools in the United States, only nine have departments of geriatrics." In contrast, every medical school in Britain has a geriatrics department and this is a popular speciality for doctors.
Despite the fact that we are keeping patients alive longer and longer, their quality of life is often very poor. it makes no sense to me to keep someone alive when the pain of living outweighs the pleasure. We are in great trouble medically in this country and need to do some serious thinking about medical care in the months ahead.