Lack of access to health care does lifelong harm

Well, if this isn’t the most horrifying story to start my morning ever.

After three decades of progressive symptoms, a 43-year-old man from Panama was rushed into emergency surgery with a massively swollen scrotum that hung past the level of his knees and had begun to rot and ooze foul-smelling pus, a team of Texas doctors report.

I’m not so much hung up on the clinical symptoms as on the fact that this man suffered for 30 years, for most of his life, with a condition that would have crippled his social options and destroyed his opportunity to be a productive part of his community, and that would have been a painful, constant reminder of his state. It wouldn’t be something he could ever get away from.

And it was treatable, especially if it could have been caught early. This is precisely why health care ought to be a human right.


  1. sarah00 says

    The headline of the Ars Technica article leaves a lot to be desired. They say that [the patient had been] avoiding doctors for decades” which makes it sound like he had the opportunity to go and just decided not to bother. The journal article simply says that “[The patient] had not sought medical care in many years” and gives no explanation for why. You’d either have to be deathly afraid of doctors or, as PZ suggests, lack access to affordable medical treatment, to go so long with so much discomfort.

  2. wzrd1 says

    The story is extremely odd, parasite infestation doesn’t give one an epic level hernia, where one’s colon is inside the scrotum.
    There is a lot missing from this story,

  3. nomadiq says

    Well interestingly Panama does have government run healthcare provisions. A huge majority of Panamanians are covered by it. But as one might expect, services in rural areas are poor. Not sure where this unfortunate man was from.

    Anyway, it seems the issue here may be more than a lack of healthcare options – but a willingness to transcend social stigma and have a doctor look at your privates when they hurt. So I think the title to this post is misleading… dare I say kind of ignorant to assume Panama doesn’t have government run healthcare for it’s people?

  4. wzrd1 says

    @nomadiq #5, he was from the US. Where health care is considered a luxury, but firearms are a right.

  5. nomdeplume says

    Time you moved to Australia, PZ, where you get excellent health care because you are a human being, not because you are a rich human being. It is one of the things outsiders find incomprehensible about America (along with ownership of automatic weapons and the freedom to verbally abuse others) – that the poor have been convinced that they don’t want free health care.

  6. chris61 says

    @6 wzrd1

    he was from the US.

    Source? He was seen in an American emergency room but was he American?

  7. tacitus says

    Anyway, it seems the issue here may be more than a lack of healthcare options

    Access to free-at-point-of-delivery healthcare doesn’t mean that people will always avail themselves of the service. Contrary to right-wing claims, national health services typically have far more problems with people putting off seeking timely healthcare than they do with people overusing the service “because it’s free”.
    I know from personal experience that men, in particular, are pretty good at putting off going to the doctor with minor issues, even when money isn’t the issue. When I was a young man, living in the UK, I allowed a lump in the same region as the unfortunate Panamanian to grow from the size of a grain of rice to kidney bean-sized before I finally panicked and went to my local doctor. Fortunately, it was just a cyst, but if it had been cancer, the six month delay in seeking medical help could have been fatal.
    Clearly, the Panamanian story is an extreme case, but the same sort of thing happens all the time on a less visible scale.