The doctor won’t see you now.

Unfortunately, in a phenomenon that reflects contemporary interplay between economic considerations and ethical concerns, this brusque phrase has become concerningly commonplace. As worries multiply and become increasingly more cumbersome, physicians are – just like most others – focusing more and more on finances. In a disquieting turn of events, the number of people without access to adequate healthcare due to monetary and insurance issues has alarmingly skyrocketed. At the forefront of this development, notably, has been the field of mental health services.

Research[1] has shown that psychiatrists are the least likely of all physicians to accept insurance coverage. In fact, only 55.3% of psychiatrists do so, in contrast with 88.7% of all physicians overall. Furthermore, this percentage of psychiatrists has consistently been decreasing over the past few years. This sheds light on the hazardous and pervasive barrier standing in the way of millions of people’s access to desperately needed mental healthcare.

Certainly, the immediate instinct when faced with such shocking data is to investigate the underlying causes and systematically analyze the root of the problem. However, the dispiriting but expected fact of the matter is that empirical research has not succeeded in clarifying the vague shroud of mystery surrounding this pandemic. Revealingly, the amount of research – rather than its quality – could be insufficient. This raises the question: is there enough interest and mobilized action in the wider community and the medical field to unearth the origins of this unfortunate plight?

In tandem with causal analysis, a consequential examination is equally vital to the formation of a complete understanding of the situation. Who is facing the brunt of the negative ramifications of this issue, and in what manner are they manifested? Naturally, lower-income and minority patients with mental disorders are suffering in this context. Often going without access to affordable healthcare, these individuals must face their illnesses without sufficient treatment, and this frequently exacerbates the symptoms, pushing them towards unsafe extremes.  Given this specificity of effect targeted against a limited and well-defined population, what we observe is a rigidly defined instance of systemic injustice – but in a medical context.

Evidently, the field of medicine implicitly contributes to the perpetuation of a culture of inequity impacting those who need help the most and leaving them abandoned in a world of danger and hurt. This paints a pessimistic picture of the state of healthcare today. The time has come for a serious and genuine re-evaluation of priorities and ethical standards. What matters more in contemporaneous society: an extra dollar or an extra life


Posted by Joe Rizkallah

Joe is a freshman studying Molecular & Cellular Biology. A member of HMR’s Medical Humanities team, he is interested in exploring the complex interface between sociocultural factors and clinical practice, as well as diverse topics relating to bioethics, medical philosophy and the nuanced boundaries between humanities and sciences (or lack thereof). He is also involved in numerous on-campus organizations, including Alpha Phi Omega and Refuel Our Future, and he is currently conducting research at the Viral Oncology lab of the Johns Hopkins medical campus. Outside of class, he enjoys swimming, badminton, and exploring the nooks and crannies of Baltimore.

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