Man Has Finger Bitten Off At Health Care Rally

By Brian Kumnick on September 04, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We Need a Little of That Free Health Care Over Here, Please!

The overly-contentious national debate over health care reform took a trip to the hospital -- literally -- in Thousand Oaks, California, on Wednesday. L.A. station KTLA reported that an anti-reform activist had the top portion of his pinky bitten off in a fight with a pro-reform rallyer. (In true local-news tradition, the web version of KTLA's story comes complete with a photo of the bloody sidewalk at the site of the confrontation.)

According to KTLA, two men got into an in-your-face shoutfest during a typical rally/counter-rally over health care reform, and when the anti-reformer, William Rice, felt threatened and took a swing at his pro-reform antagonist, a good old-fashioned fistfight ensued, during which the unnamed (and ultimately un-apprehended) reformer bit off the top portion of Rice's pinky. Rice drove himself to the hospital, where efforts to reattach the digit were unsuccessful.
Naturally, bloggers on opposite sides of this issue have opposite takes on the incident. (Here are Red County and Odd Time Signatures for a sampling.) But given the shrill and unproductive nature of most of the healthcare "debate" thus far, perhaps we should be looking at wrestling, hair-pulling, and finger-biting contests between opposing factions as an attractive alternative to more of the same.

And, more importantly, this story itself raises many legitimate questions about our current system of care:

  • The KTLA story lists William Rice's age as 65. Did this staunch anti-socialist take advantage of his single-payer Medicare benefits to get himself stitched up?
  • Was Los Robles Hospital guilty of rationing its severed-finger care? Did any fingerless patients that night get their digits reattached?
  • Would a British or Canadian hospital have been able to reattach the finger, or would they have made Rice wait 6 months before trying?
  • Or do American hospitals provide the best finger-reattachment care in the entire world?
  • Was a death panel convened to see if Rice should simply be allowed to bleed to death in the E.R. waiting area?
  • Would a thorough tort-reform regime perhaps have encouraged his doctors, freed from possible exposure to an outrageous malpractice judgment, to try a controversial and risky, but potentially finger-saving, surgical procedure?
And now that you've pondered these possibilities, you are free to get back to the accounts of town-hall riots and comparisons to Hitler that are making this national "conversation" so very productive.
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