Book on Poor African-American Family and Race Posing a Problem for Health Care Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Mama Might Be Better off Dead

For the past several decades, health care reform has been on the top of the political lip service agenda. Presidential candidates debate heatedly over which types of Medicare or Medicaid reforms should be instated and purport to want "universal health care." They call out for assistance to low-income families and claim that no American citizen should go without health care services. Yet through all their platitudes one thing remains painfully clear: they really just don't care. Not only has little been done to ensure that every American, regardless of race, receives the best health care services available but the situation seems to be getting worse as the income disparity gap widens with every successive year. In her 1993 book Mama Might be Better Off Dead, Laurie Kaye Abraham illustrates the impact of America's failing health care system by focusing on one family. The Banes' are poor, and they happen to be African-American: what will turn out to be two strikes against them in their pursuit of adequate -- not even exceptional -- health care. Abraham offers in intimate view of the Banes' lives, four generations of men and women who suffer from various ailments and who have found it nearly impossible to receive medical attention to meet their needs. By showing the effects of what Abraham calls the "healthcare nonsystem" on one family alone, Mama Might be Better off Dead emerges as a powerful reminder of one of the hugest domestic political issues of recent American history. In fact, Mama Might be Better off Dead alludes to the notion that health care shouldn't even come under the general political rubric but has rather become more of a human rights issue. The eerie title of Abraham's book shows how in many cases the American health care system only responds to the rich or to the nearly dead.

Jackie Banes essentially became the caretaker of four generations of family members: her grandmother Cora Jackson, her father Tommy Markham, her husband Robert and her three children. While the tales of these individuals are heart-wrenching, the object of Abraham's book is not to draw tears but to inspire change and prompt readers to think strongly about how they vote. The first chapter of the book, entitled "Where crowded humanity suffers and sickens": The Banes Family and Their Neighborhood," traces and explains Robert Banes' kidney failure. Since he was twenty-seven years old and his kidneys failed, Robert Banes has needed kidney dialysis three times a week. With considerable detail, Abraham details some of the experiences and medical procedures that Robert must endure and describes how closely race and illness are linked. On page 20, the author states, "Though genetic differences still are occasionally cited in medical literature in order to explain disproportionate disease among blacks, nearly all health experts put most of the blame on poverty," (20). Abraham continues, "The starkest contrast in longevity is between white and black…

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Works Cited

Abraham, Laurie Kaye. Mama Might be Better off Dead. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

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