The “Hero of 9/11” Gets It Wrong

Because asbestos litigation is in large part due to the fact that the U.S. government refuses to provide the same free, universal health care that citizens in every other major industrialized nation enjoy as a right, health care issues are frequently addressed in this column. As what may be the most significant presidential election in U.S. history draws closer, we have discussed where the various candidates stand on these issues (see “Support Universal Health Care” [2, 3 and 6 August] and “Why Asbestos Victims Must Support Universal Health Care” [31 July]). Last week, the “Hero of 9/11” and Republican front-runner Rudolf Giuliani had a touching and inspiring story to share with the public. He is a cancer survivor. The particular form of cancer he survived is immaterial in this case (it was of the prostate); suffice it to say that unlike most of the first responders and others who actually worked to save lives on 11 September 2001, Giuliani got an early diagnosis, was presented with a number of treatment options and was given first-class care as only the very wealthy in the U.S. are entitled to receive. That’s not the story. The story is his indictment of the U.K.’s National Health Service, which guarantees health care to every British subject. In his latest radio ad, Giuliani prefaces his comments by saying, “You and I should be making the decisions about what kind of health care we get with our doctors, not with a government bureaucrat.”

He continues: “My chance of surviving prostate cancer–and, thank God, I was cured of it–in the United States? Eighty-two percent. My chance of surviving prostate cancer in England? Only forty-four percent under socialized medicine.” Frightening, isn’t it? End free-market control of the U.S. health-care system, and not only will you have some government official making your health care choices for you, but your chances of survival will only be about half of what it is under the current system. The problem is, Giuliani’s statement is incorrect. In fact, the U.S. and the U.K. have similar survival rates. Kevin Drum, writing in the Washington Monthly on 29 October 2007, points out that the U.S. diagnoses more prostate cancer–including cases which are not life-threatening. Drum writes, “the difference probably isn’t that we’re any better at prostate cancer surgery than the Brits, but that we aggressively screen for even mild cases of prostate cancer… and then, unsurprisingly, we go on to survive all these non-threatening cancers regardless of treatment.” Aside from this, British subjects seeking health care do in fact have some say in which doctors they see and how they will be treated. To date, Giuliani has received over $1 million in campaign contributions from the health care and the pharmaceutical industries. When asked if they would continue to run Giuliani’s ad with the inaccurate information, a spokesperson for his campaign replied, “Yes, we will.” Meanwhile, ask yourself if you are any better off when your health care decisions are made by an overpaid corporate CEO and a private corporation that makes profits by denying health care to those who need it.