Factory hospitals 8. November 2008 William Davis (8) Twenty years ago, the American farming industry experienced a dilemma: How to grow more soybeans, corn, or wheat from a limited amount of farmland, raise more cattle and hogs in a shorter period of time, fatter and ready for slaughter within months rather than years? (Image courtesy Wikipedia)The solution: Synthetically fertilize farmland for greater crop yield; “factory farms” for livestock in which chickens or pigs are crammed into tiny cages that leave no room to turn, cattle packed tightly into manure-filled paddocks. As author Michael Pollan put it in his candid look at American health and eating, The Omnivore’s Dilemma:“To visit a modern Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is to enter a world that for all its technological sophistication is still designed on seventeenth-century Cartesian principles: Animals are treated as machines—“production units”—incapable of feeling pain. Since no thinking person can possibly believe this anymore, industrial animal agriculture depends on a suspension of disbelief on the part of the people who operate it and a willingness to avert one’s eyes on the part of everyone else. . .”Pollan goes on to argue that the cultural distance inserted between the brutal factory farm existence of livestock and your dinner table permits this to continue:“. . .the life of the pig has moved out of view; when’s the last time you saw a pig in person? Meat comes from the grocery store, where it is cut and packaged to look as little like parts of animals as possible. The disappearance of animals from our lives has opened a space in which there’s no reality check on the sentiment or the brutality . . .”The same disconnect has occurred in healthcare for the heart. The emotional distance thrust between the hospital-employed primary care physician, the procedure-driven cardiologist, the crammed-into-a-niche electrophysiologist (heart rhythm specialist) or cardiothoracic surgeon whose principal concerns are procedures—with an eye always towards litigation risk—mimics factory farms that now litter the landscape of the Midwest. The hospitals and doctors who deliver the process see us less as human beings and more as the next profit opportunity. The “factory hospital” has allowed the subjugation of humans into the service of procedural volume, all in the name of fattening revenues. Never mind that people are not (usually) killed outright but subjected to a succession of life-disrupting procedures over many years. But whether livestock in a factory farm or humans in a factory hospital, the net result to the people controlling the process is identical: increased profits. The system doesn’t grow to meet market demand, but to grow profits. The myth that allows this growth is perpetuated by the participants who stand to gain from that growth. See hospitals for what they are: businesses. Despite most hospitals retaining "Saint" in their name, there is no longer anything saintly or charitable about these commercial operations. They are ever bit as profit-seeking as GE, Enron, or Mobil.