The next time someone disputes the idea that capitalism kills, suggest they consider these examples:
The effects of austerity and unemployment in Greece.
As the head of Greece’s largest oncology department, Dr. Kostas Syrigos thought he had seen everything. But nothing prepared him for Elena, an unemployed woman whose breast cancer had been diagnosed a year before she came to him.
By that time, her cancer had grown to the size of an orange and broken through the skin, leaving a wound that she was draining with paper napkins. “When we saw her we were speechless,” said Dr. Syrigos, the chief of oncology at Sotiria General Hospital in central Athens. “Everyone was crying. Things like that are described in textbooks, but you never see them because until now, anybody who got sick in this country could always get help.”
The New England Compounding Center, the pharmacy at the heart of a national meningitis outbreak in which 25 people have died, 313 more have fallen ill and as many as 14,000 people are believed to have been exposed.
A federal inspection of a company whose tainted pain medicine has caused one of the worst public health drug disasters since the 1930s found greenish-yellow residue on sterilization equipment, surfaces coated with levels of mold and bacteria that exceeded the company’s own environmental limits, and an air-conditioner that was shut off nightly despite the importance of controlling temperature and humidity. . .
Instead of producing tailor-made drugs for individual patients, as the law allowed, the company turned into a major drug maker that supplied some of the most prestigious hospitals in the country, including ones affiliated with Harvard, Yale and the Mayo Clinic, all with minimal oversight from federal regulators.
And, finally, the effects of life disparity on life expectancy [pdf].
- Most of the gains in life expectancy are the result of reducing disparities in how long people live, by averting premature mortality.
- Progress in reducing death rates for people who live longer than average has had little effect on life disparity levels and has contributed only modestly to life expectancy gains.
- The countries that have been most successful at reducing premature mortality enjoy the highest life expectancies and the greatest equality in individuals’ lifespans.
Unfortunately, these examples show that the unemployment, profits, and inequality associated with capitalism kill. We can certainly do better than this.