Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Comparing medical systems

It's been a few weeks now that I've been embedded in a research hospital in Japan for the bayblab. I've gotten to know some of the doctors here quite well, and we've shared notes about how our medical systems operate. I've found out some interesting tidbits, like the near monopoly of apple products here in the hospital, the difficulties of only having MD/PhD doing health science because of clinical duties etc. But one of the more interesting topics was health care coverage.

In Canada there is much debate about whether or not we should allow a two tier system. Currently any trip to the hospital is free, but there is no way to pay to get private surgery done earlier. Some people argue it would lessen the burden on our system and reduce waiting times. The Japanese health care system is interesting. Here you do have to pay if you have a job but it is subsidized depending on how much money you make, and will be covered if you need an extended stay like say in case of cancer. Childcare is the same, you pay depending on your salary, which for a doctor here would set you back approximately 500$/month.

Upon comparing notes I happened to ask whether medical marijuana was legal, as it is for us. I was a bit setback by the reaction I got. Not only is it not legal, but possession is a huge offense here. In fact the doctors here had no idea it had any medical properties and considered cannabis to be a very potent and toxic drug. I really wonder how such a view became so prevalent. Coming from a country where 17% of the population smokes regularly, and almost 2/3 have used it at some point in their life, I know fully well it is anything but dangerous. I applaud the efforts of patients in the United States who fight so hard despite their illness, to make sure they can get the medicine they need without being labeled a criminal... For more on this subject check out our latest podcast!