Ezra Klein thinks he’s being clever by arguing that, “if not for ‘socialized medicine,’ Giuliani would likely be dead.” The first peg of E. Klein’s argument rests on the idea that at the time Giuliani was mayor he was a city employee and thus covered under New York State’s health insurance. This is a largely irrelevant argument, because any state-run health insurance plan within a hybrid healthcare system such as ours does not exist in a vacuum, it exists within a system that also has elements of a free market.
To get around this problem, E. Klein writes sarcastically:
Nor is it clear that the Europeans are so bad at this stuff. Giuliani’s cancer was treated by way of a therapy called Bradychardia, which involves implanting small, rice-sized radioactive capsules into the prostate gland. The technique was developed [PDF] by a researcher from Copenhagen, Denmark. Denmark, you’ll recall, is both in Europe and has a universal healthcare system. It’s a wonder Giuliani didn’t stalk out of his hospital on principle.
Actually, Bradychardia, properly spelled Bradycardia, has nothing to do with prostate cancer treatment. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Bradycardia describes a heart rate that drops below 50 beats per minute, compared to a normal heartbeat rate of about 72.” Had E. Klein looked more carefully at the PDF he linked to, he would have seen that the prostate treatment he was referring to is called Brachytherapy.
I did some quick research on the topic, which I caution is by no means conclusive, because unlike the other Klein, I won’t attempt to present myself as a health care expert. Though I did find that a Danish researcher named Hans Holm was important in the development of this type of treatment, it doesn’t appear as if he was the sort of lone developer that E. Klein presented him as, but one person in a string of physicians that developed the technique, with U.S.-based doctors playing an important role.
This from the California Pacific Medical Center:
In the early 1970’s, Willet Whitmore, M.D. and Basil Hilaris, M.D. from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, were the first physicians to perform prostate seed implants. An abdominal incision was used to implant the seeds directly into the exposed gland.
In 1983, Hans Holm, M.D., University of Copenhagen, Denmark, was the first physician to perform the “closed” or “non-surgical” implant method, which utilized transrectal ultrasound (TRUS). In
1985, Haakon Ragde, M.D., John Blasko, M.D. and Peter Grimm, D.O. further modified Holm’s approach in Seattle, Washington. They began treatment in November 1985.
If he is going to attack Giuliani for spreading a “cancer myth,” E. Klein should do a better job of avoiding his own mythmaking.