07/16/14

I Guess I’m a Little Bit Socialist

Aaron (not his real name) walked into my office and said he needed my help. We were the two therapists scheduled to work that weekend with the inpatient adolescent unit at a drug and alcohol treatment center. He had been in an individual session with a sixteen year-old Hispanic girl who was always getting into trouble; usually from losing her temper. For weeks he’d been trying to get her to open up and talk about what was behind her anger. And she finally decided to tell him—she had witnessed the ritual killing of an infant.

We knew she had been a runaway with a guy in his forties and thought we had a pretty good guess of what her past trauma issues were. But we were way off. Aaron and I were friends and part of the same bible study. I‘d heard his testimony and knew that his commitment to Christ came after the accidental drowning of his young son. When he heard what the Hispanic girl had to say, all his past grief and loss came back to him.

He took me back to his office and he told her why I was there; he was just too close to his own loss to help her just then. We listened to her story of being forced to witness the ritual killing and I helped her as best I could with the memories and feelings she expressed. She kept crying and repeating how bad she felt for the baby; the baby. In closing the session, I told her that Aaron and I would pray for the dead infant and she could too if she wanted. We were not Roman Catholic, but knew that the girl was. So the prayer was intended to give her a time of closure with what she had just shared with us. We prayed; and she did also, asking God to protect and care for the dead baby.

The girl was placed on suicide watch; we told other staff about what she had disclosed. In a day or two there was a treatment review of the incident by the newly hired treatment director and newly appointed facility administrator. Our center had been recently bought by a much larger corporation. Aaron said later that everything went fine with the review—until he told them of the closing prayer we had done. Then our new bosses suddenly wanted to go over the whole thing again with a fine-toothed comb.

We had been therapeutically on the money. There wasn’t anything that could be said to be clinically wrong with what we did. But Aaron and I were told in no uncertain terms to never pray with anyone ever again. I distinctly thought that if they could have pointed to anything out of order, it would have been used to fire us on the spot. I’ve always thought that one of the greatest ironies of this was that the administrator was a former minister. It was after this incident that I began to think it was time for me to move on and I did. I went to seminary.

I didn’t stay in touch with Aaron over the years. But I ran into a mutual friend at a Christian counseling conference last year. The friend had taught the bible study Aaron and I were part of. He also had been the former director of treatment let go at our facility. The new corporate owners came in with their new treatment direction and he hadn’t been part of their plans. We caught up on what had been happening in each others lives and I began asking about other people from that time. My friend told me that Aaron had died a couple of years ago because of complications from hepatitis C. Even though we hadn’t been in touch, I still felt the loss.

Recently I posted two links on Facebook about an outrageously expensive treatment for hepatitis C, Sovaldi, which is listed to cost $1,000 per pill. Both times I received comments justifying the cost by pointing to the right of the drug company Gilead Science to charge what they consider a competitive market price; that the company has to recoup its research and development costs, etc. The first time I was upset enough to impulsively delete the person’s comments. That led to me being “unfriended.” The second time, I responded by posting links indicating how drug companies have been shown to carry out a misleading campaign to justify their profits to fund expensive, “risky” research and development. Here the organization, Public Citizen, was noted to be in favor of government control of the economy and therefore socialist.

A Yahoo News report indicated: “An estimated 15,000 people died from hepatitis C in the U.S. in 2007, when it surpassed AIDS as a cause of death.” Health care costs related to hepatitis C are expected to increase 1,800 percent by 2016. Additionally, more than a dozen European countries are joining forces to negotiate a lower rate for the drug treatment. And two U.S.  senators have written to the Gilead chief executive, saying: “the pricing had raised serious questions about the extent to which the market for this drug is operating efficiently and rationally.”

So I guess when it comes to Hepatitis C treatment, I’m a little bit socialist. Either that or I take profiteering by drug companies personally. Probably both. Rest in peace Aaron.

Do you think the costs of some medical treatments should be regulated?

Also read, “Is There No Balm in Gilead?”