It’s only fitting that Wendy Dean and Simon Talbot’s new book about the dysfunctional US health system will be released during Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month.
Both authors (one a psychiatrist, the other a surgeon) have worked regularly with patients in the limb-loss community. And both have seen how amputees and all other patients are being harmed by a medical system that’s anything but user-friendly.
It’s bad enough that patients are now routinely described as “healthcare consumers,” as if life-altering care were akin to the clutter we order on Amazon. But the real flaw in this definition is that when we seek medical attention, we’re not actually consuming anything. We’re being consumed. Our infirmities become units of inventory on the market, assets to be bought, traded, marked up, and sold. They no longer belong only to us; they also belong to whatever portfolios own the revenues that flow from our bodies. Healthcare consumers? Not really. We’re healthcare products.
And, as Dean and Talbot ably describe, we’re not the only ones getting turned into commodities. Increasingly, the caregivers we rely on to heal us—prosthetists included—are reduced to cogs in the machine, valued less for their training and expertise than for the metrics they post on a KPI dashboard. Most of them, like us, don’t enter the healthcare marketplace with a transactional mindset. They’re primarily motivated by a desire to help people live longer, better, healthier lives. But they’re having to work harder and harder to fulfill that mission—and with diminishing success.
Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month is about creating a world that empowers amputees to achieve maximum health and happiness. But that can only happen if the deep flaws in our healthcare industry get fixed. Everyone involved in amputee care—patients, prosthetists, surgeons, PTs, and on down the line—shares an interest in mending our broken system. Dean and a range of other people offer thoughts about how amputees and their caregivers can work together toward that goal in “The Cost of Doing Business,” starting on page 18.
That’s a heavy subject, but this issue also has some lighter ways for you to observe LLLDAM. In “Banksy Goes Bionic,” starting on page 12, you’ll learn how above-knee amputee Nick Harrier found a creative outlet for his steampunk sensibilities by building eye-grabbing, handcrafted prosthetic covers. In addition to looking cool, these works of art are changing people’s perceptions of limb loss. The March edition also features a sharp, lively article from Diana Theobald, who has experienced two sides of the limb-loss struggle: She salvaged one injured leg and had the other amputated. “Am I happy I kept my right foot?” she asks. “Am I happy I lost my left foot?” Get her answers and hear her story beginning on page 24.
Amplitude will have some news of our own during LLLDAM, so keep your eyes and ears peeled. Enjoy the issue.