By Contributor on January 07, 2014

By Nikos Ladopoulos

Life has a price in Greece today. It is worth just 25 Euros, or about $35.

That's the price of admission to a public hospital since the beginning of the year. And it only gets your foot in the door, with other fees that follow.

So, when a 60-year-old, out-of-work citizen with cancer was recently sent, barely conscious, to a public hospital by doctors at the free Community Clinic, he could not produce the mandated 25 Euros and was turned away. He died a few hours later.

He was not the first one to die, and from the looks of it, will not be the last.

I visited the Community Clinic, established and run by volunteer doctors, nurses and lay people of the city where I live. The queue of sick people stretches for over a block.

I ask if any of them have 25 Euros in their pocket, but they do not. Five maybe? Again: No. One of the clinic's doctors told me there are many people with life threatening but treatable illnesses. "If we can just get them for a few days in the hospital we could save them, but..."

The current Greek Minister of Health, Adonis Georgiadis, is leading the dismantling of the nation's public health system, in an effort to satisfy Greece's lenders who demand "fiscal discipline" and a privately-run, American-style health care system.

Georgiadis spoke about the new hospital admittance fee following the much-publicized death of the 60-year-old, cancer-stricken man, calling the newly-instituted 25 Euro fee "peanuts." (The Greek colloquialism is actually "hair," which seems a lot less than peanuts.) One day after his statement, Georgiadis sent the health department to try and shut down the free Community Clinic for causing him such embarrassment.

Things were different just a few months ago. My wife Mary, a U.S. citizen, had an accident. She went to a nearby public clinic where a physician gave her an anesthetic and sewed her torn finger. She had two subsequent bandage changes, and a nurse removed her stitches during a third visit.

She paid 5 Euros for all of this, and only because she had no health insurance. The antibiotic medication cost another 7 Euros. By comparison, had she been injured without insurance in the U.S., this whole procedure would have cost at least $500, if not much more.

It seems clear now that the U.S. model of privatized health care is taking over Greece, in the midst of an unparalleled humanitarian crisis and mass unemployment across all of Europe. Yet, the leaders of European capitalism and our banking elite regard this gaping wound with soulless eyes and heartless inaction.

Their procedure was successful. The patient is dead, and more will be joining him soon.

Nikos Ladopoulos is a Greek-American freelance writer.

Photo: "United States medical," via Shutterstock.

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Comments

I went to a medical clinic in northern Greece. I had full travellers insurance. I was still denied medical assistance. It is cheaper to die than it is to be treated. Best advice is don't get sick.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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