From "Sicko" to "Salud."

One last "Sicko" note. I promise.

The movie’s hosannas to the Cuban health system has brought Moore the most grief, but no one really has taken him to task for his conclusions that given the country’s limited resources, health care in Cuba is a much better deal than ours. “Salud,” a neglected 2006 documentary by Oscar nominee (for “Freedom on My Mind” in 1994) Connie Field, supports Moore’s contentions and examines the system from a different perspective: not as an alternative to that in the US, but to that in other countries in the Third World.

The Cuban philosophy (so goes Field’s argument) is based on the notion that medical care is a right and doctors should be motivated by altruism, not greed. This philosophy they export to countries like Honduras, South Africa, Venezuala (under the auspices of George Bush’s bete noir, Hugo Chavez) and The Gambia by sending them thousands of doctors who work in the poorest region. They also traini poor people in those countries to be doctors. Unfortunately, the International Monetary Fund doesn’t appreciate any of this; it makes its loans to countries on the condition that health care there is privatized. Nor do the doctors already in those countries, who like to make money and practice where they want to, like having the Cubans put them in their place. So it comes down to a battle between the good of the community and the freedom of the individual.

Did somebody say communism? Maybe those right wingers who argue that socialized medicine is the Trojan Horse of a Marxist takeover are onto something. Or maybe it’s more important to save children from dying of preventible diseases than allowing a tiny minority the freedom to profit from human misery. Tough call. The film doesn’t have the pizzazz of Moore’s manifesto, and at times it plays like a Cuban infomercial, but it does add to the discussion.

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