If we nationalize health care, more celebrities will die!

Conservatives opposed to health care reform say Natasha Richardson's death was due in part to Canada's system.

Published March 27, 2009 7:35PM (EDT)

On any given day, I get a lot of e-mails from publicists. Some are silly, some are embarrassingly unprofessional, most are completely unrelated to what I cover. Occasionally, one is downright shameful -- callous, even offensive. One of those landed in my inbox today. The headline of the pitch is, "NEWS REPORTS REVEAL NATASHA RICHARDSON’S DEATH MAY HAVE BEEN PREVENTED WITH U.S. HEALTHCARE." And yes, the point of the e-mail is that socialized medicine killed Richardson, whose fatal skiing accident occurred in Canada.

Normally, I'd just have ignored this, but apparently this theme is gaining increasing traction. The Chicago Tribune carried an op-ed about it earlier this week, and the piece was picked up by the New York Post yesterday. Michelle Malkin ran with the issue in a post on her blog today. Last week, the American Spectator's Matthew Vadum wrote, "Did the fact that Canada has a socialist, government-run healthcare system -- similar to the kind that President Obama wants to ram down the throats of Americans -- kill acclaimed actress Natasha Richardson?

"The short answer is yes, it may very well have done so."

The key questions are whether the hospital Richardson went to had a CT scanner and whether a flight in a medical helicopter to a hospital with better facilities, rather than the long ambulance ride Richardson took, would have made a difference.

It turns out, contrary to what the Tribune op-ed said, that there was a CT scanner at the first hospital Richardson went to and she did in fact receive a scan. The lack of a helicopter, however, is a legitimate problem. But critics of Canada's system have gone too far, claiming that there's no medivac system in the whole of the country, which isn't true.

I note those arguments and counterarguments just to give readers some background -- but, frankly, I'm not nearly as concerned with them as I am with the fact that we're discussing this at all. When did we get to the point that we can't even let a family grieve without turning their loved one's death into fodder for our own political debates?

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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