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This was next up for me to blog about (after vulture fund investors), so thanks for getting there sooner.  It's just monstrous that we can't solve this sort of thing.


please go ahead and blog about it. I want to read your thoughts.


And there are idiots like my SIL who is now paying an emergency room toothache bill because she refused to let the dentist treat my nieces' cavities. I don't know why she would add this to her list of Neglectful Mother qualities, but we are going to have words soon.

This however, is a gut-wrenching story. So sad. So unnecessary.


I sent the link to the article to my SIL. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

And how many people would have gladly paid $80 to help this boy? So very many. Tragic.


I saw this yesterday and was horrified and frustrated.  What a terrible thing for that family, for the mother.  How hard do you think it was for her to realize that her son hadn't told her about the toothache, and now it's too late for him.

Tragic, and even more so knowing that it could have been prevented, but bureaucracy got in the way.


[this is good] Only in America. I get so angry when I see hungry and homeless children in the country. We send so much aid. What happened to helping home first. Friends and neighbors we must start raising hell with our government about taking care of home for awhile.


This is just criminal.

Brown Suga'

OMG that's horrible. Toothache, of all things.


It's in Canada, too.  The Toronto Star (major daily paper) just did a big investigative report on the dental plight of the poor in Canadian society, and how it not only affects their health, but also employability.  (Dental care is not covered under our socialized medicine.)  It's started the discussion going in official channels now and raised some voices in protest, so that's good.


That's very sad, and I'm sorry about it, but you can only blame so much on the system. When something is seriously wrong, you get it taken care of and figure out how to pay for it later. There must surely have been a dentist somewhere that would have done the extraction for a discount, or would have given her the option of paying in installments.

I'm not trying to denigrate the plight of the poor, and I'm not suggesting that our medical system is functioning the way it ought to, because clearly it isn't. But I'm tired of eternally hearing that "this wouldn't have happened if someone else..."


amy, why would your SIL take the girls to the dentist and then refuse to have them treated?  puzzling... and it would have been way cheaper than having to pay for an emergency room visit. I hope this story helps her realize that dental care can be crucial to a child (or adult) heath. rpennefe, CV, SM, SubH, yes, it is horrifying. Laurie, that's awful to hear; I didn't know Canada's health care didn't cover dentistry. I think a big issue is that many folks and government officials see dental care as cosmetic, which it often is, but not always. and is not only about children:  there is a lot of ongoing research tying chronic gum disease (gingivitis) with a host of serious conditions including heart disease. auntiem, a part of me agrees with you. and I'd like to believe that poor child's mother would have sold the clothes of her back if she knew what the outcome was to be. and the attitude of waiting for someone to provide is, unfortunately, endemic. however, not knowing their situation, I can't say. the article did mention she was also trying to get care for Deamonte's brother.
I should say what makes angriest about the whole sad tale is that when Deamonte became critical, then, every effort was made to save his life, at a very high cost (~¼ million dollars). how is it possible that care was available when a routine dental visit was not?  and it happens over and over and over..
it happened here in Lexington several months ago that a young woman couldn't get a flu shot as our Health Dept. had ran out of the subsidized doses. she didn't have the money to go to a pharmacy to get a shot ($30.00) so she did without. and then she got the flu. and then she got pneumonia. and by the time she showed up at the emergency room, she was so ill, that it took several weeks in ICU plus several more weeks in the hospital to recuperate. at a large cost, of course, which the hospital has little hope to recover. (sorry I can't provide an article link; the local paper charges for articles > 7 days).
this schizophrenia about not providing inexpensive routine care only to turn around and provide "the best care in the world" once the condition becomes acutely critical (a condition that could have been treated/managed earlier) is what is killing our health care system. 

little miao

this is so saddening.  thank you for sharing, mariser.


The stupid thing is that so little prevention would save so much illness in dental treatment. 


And in ref paperwork.
And Prince George's County.
Where I grew up.

Many years ago now, circa maybe 1975 or so, my father left his office on his afternoon off.
He was the local GP, and made house calls til he retired.
He was driving home and saw one of his patients, an old black guy, being evicted, his stuff out on the road in the rain.
He knew this guy.
He'd worked for years.
Now he was old and living on a show string, but he was a respectable man who paid his bills and never hurt anyone.
Definitely not right for him to get chucked out onto the street like this.
He pulls over and gets involved.

Seems the old guy's no-good son (who was like 60 himself) had stolen his social security check and run off.
He had no money, and couldn't pay his rent.
His landlord was glad to get him out because he'd been there forever.
So my dad packs him into the car, goes back to the office, and starts calling around to fix this.
After all, there are social services that take care of stuff like this, right?
Talks to social security, talks to the landlord, talks to the county, talks to the city, talks to the state, talks to welfare,
All afternoon.
Around 8pm he tracks down one of the local ministers who owed him.
We didn't go to church, but he thought teachers and preachers got treated free.
(Because they serve the public, right?)
The church finally put up the old guy in some apartment they usually ran as a ministry to immigrants, but which was coincidentally open that day.

I only *ever* heard my dad curse twice in my life.
One of them was when he came home that day.

Matthew 25

[this is good] Thanks for posting this to remind us all that love and compassion for our fellow humans should be a guiding principle. People should not fall through the cracks this way.


mariser, this is appalling - and hits close to home (or close to what used to be home, for me).

lauwolf... there's nothing I can say in reply, except to agree with your dad. And you.


AuntieM, I'm not sure the "get it taken care of and figure out how to pay for it later" principle works, in practice.

Once, a long time ago, when I was young and very short on cash, I was having problems with my wisdom teeth. I found a dentist who would see me, and after a quick examination he said I'd need to have all four extracted. I don't recall the cost, now, but I remember that it was a lot more than I had. I asked if it would be possible to extract just the two that were hurting the worst, so that I could afford it, and then I could get the other two less-critical extractions when I could scrape together the money.

I recall clearly his reply: "I'm not going to go in there twice. Just go home. You'll be back to have all four extracted at once when it hurts bad enough."

When you don't have the money, you don't get the "discretionary" service.

Most hospitals (and many doctors) are bound by ethical regulations that prevent them from withholding life-saving treatment simply on the basis of inability to pay. This is likely how the boy was able to recieve treatment when the abcess became life-threatening. But preventative care is generally only available to people who can pay. So your only real choice, when in that situation, is to *not* get the preventative care, and hope that when it gets "bad enough" you'll be able to get treatment.

I should point out here, too, that just because a hospital provides treatement "regardless of ability to pay", that treatment is not provided free of charge. In the absence of some form of medical insurance, all treatment will be billed, and all billing becomes a debt. It's not uncommon for emergency treatment (usually the only kind available to someone without ready cash) to run many thousands of dollars, which then remains the responsibility of the recipient of care.

If someone can't afford ~$100 in preventative care, they're not likely to be able to handle a ~$10,000 debt.

I speak from experience in these matters. It's not pretty. But then, poverty never is.


AuntieM, emergency rooms turn people away if they don't have insurance of some kind. I know, from experience.

It *is* the fault of both the health care system and of the government, in the kinds of cases we're talking abut here.

And I actually do believe that the mom in this story had run out of options.


I have spent years working with people who lived at the bottom of the system and I've seen lots of cases where there were no options for them, unless a charitable or government agency was willing to intervene.  And if those options fell through...there were no options.  These were people who did not have bank accounts or credit cards or kindly relatives or any of the options that many of us have to delay payments of crucial services.  They lived in a cash-based world and when there was no cash, there were no options.  Sometimes the choices they had were like this: medical care or rent?  Food or prescriptions?  Surgery or electrical bill?  I met a family who ended up living under the interstate, because they spent their rent money on the dad's hernia surgery.  He had to have the surgery to be able to go on working and those were their options.  Pay for the surgery or pay the rent.  They paid for the surgery and their landlord had them evicted.  Simple as that.  And it wasn't incredibly expensive--$600, but that was 3 months of rent for them.  (And imagine what $200 in rent gets you in a town like Tampa, FL, and you can imagine how they were already living.)


What RedZ said....


Talked to my mom, and she took my youngest niece to the dentist yesterday to get the rest of her fillings she needed. The other two go in next week to get everything taken care of. I sent the link to SIL and she replied, "I know what a toothache looks like, I know what the beginning of an abcess looks like..." Whatevs.

Mom, Dad and I don't know what her deal was. She was raised to 'do without' a lot of care such as this, so perhaps that was it. She seems to have learned her lesson.

On the other side of the note, (and some of you may have heard this already) when I was a community volunteer for our United Way, I visited an agency that provided free children's dental service one day a week. The volunteer dentist was there that day and said some of these kids get so excited when they are given the free toothbrush. In most cases, it's the first toothbrush that is their own and they don't have to share with the rest of the family, if they even had a toothbrush at all.

What does it say when a $1 toothbrush is a luxury? $1 is bus fare. It's food. It's part of the rent money.


I am a single mom of a toddler with a couple of bad teeth. I have brushed his teeth since they started coming in and my two older kids have great teeth. Because of genetics (not neglect), my son needed to see a dentist at a year old. I am on medicaid and I am actually grateful for it. If it weren't for medicaid, I don't know how I would pay. I never take it for granted or complain. Although I am very limited to services, I have managed to find a decent doctor and dentist. I can say that it's like finding a needle in a haystack and you have to be proactive to make the system work for you. One of my son's caretakers at his daycare told me about my dentist and apparently he caters to people with medicaid, what a good soul. I can honestly say that if I didn't have medicaid or couldn't find a dentist that takes medicaid, I would have walked into about every dentist office in town until I found someone who would help us out. Sometimes it's not the system, it's just that people don't know that they have options and that's not always the system's fault. Sometimes people have a belief that there's nothing they can do and give up. I can definitely relate to that, it's a lot of work to sort through all of the red tape. I think that awareness is the key and unfortunately it seems as though some tragedy like this has to happen for us to take notice. We have to take the action, try to make things better and resist the temptation of blame. I'm really sorry this had to happen, I have a 12 year old boy and I don't know what I would do if I lost him to something so seemingly trivial. My heart goes out to that mom.


[this is good]

I just had to find some place online to blog about this situation. I feel so badly for this Mother. My 9 year old son lost a tooth last night, one of his molar's and half of the tooth is still lodged in his gum with another tooth coming underneath it, with what looks to be a ball forming over the tooth. I don't have any medical coverage for another ninety days, and took him to the dentist today just to be on the safe side after hearing about this story last week, and they refused to see my child because I don't have any insurance, and they said that the first initial visit would cost $240 just for the visit, and if they had to extract the tooth, that was another charge and payment is due upon service. I told them that I didn't have any money until payday next Friday, being a single Mother of 3 boys, and they said they couldn't bill me, and that I would have to make the payment or they couldn't see him. I am now crying my eyes out, because I feel like a failure as a Mother that I can't provide my child the medical attention that he may need, because of lack of insurance, and no money. What is the world coming too, when a doctor's office can turn away a 9 year old boy in their face, because I don't have money right this second. Why? I pray to GOD that my son's tooth isn't a major problem and that it doesn't turn into anything fatal, I hope that it is fine, and it will correct itself, but it makes me so angry that something like this can happen, if he starts complaining about it, or running a fever, I will take him to the ER, but can someone make me understand why the world is all about the mighty buck, and not about people in general. I mean come on, he is only 9, he can't go out and get a job, not yet anyway. I just needed to vent. I appreciate your allowing me to do so.



[this is good] I agree with you....people need to quit worrying about what is going on in other parts of the world and start taking care of people right here.  That story is so sad, he did not have to die...

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