Healthcare In Germany

I never really knew much about other countries’ healthcare systems until I started to read Fat Acceptance blogs. Later I joined a fibromyalgia support group on LiveJournal, as well as a message board about chronic illnesses in general, and since then I have learned a lot. Being German, I grew up with universal healthcare and automatically assumed that seeing the doctor was free everywhere – because, after all, you didn’t become sick on purpose, right? Haha, yeah. I wonder why they didn’t teach us this stuff in school. I was completely clueless.

Costs aside, there is one other thing that I found rather mind-boggling when I first heard of it: misdiagnoses getting stuck in your medical record forever. I mean, wow. The whole idea that there exists such a thing as a list of everything you’ve ever been diagnosed with creeps me out. Over here, I can just go to a new doctor and practically start from scratch. Sure, my insurance company must be keeping track of me to an extent, but that information is not available to anyone else and certainly doesn’t seem to include diagnoses – er, what I meant was, my diagnoses don’t seem to affect their behaviour towards me. My head, it is disorganised.

Just a few weeks ago I had to send a few documents to a hospital that I’m planning to stay at. My doctor gave me copies of reports from the few specialists that I had seen last year, and to my surprise I discovered that among them was one by a neurologist who hadn’t believed a word I said and got angry with me for “refusing” to take antidepressants when in reality I had merely told him that I’d already tried three different ones and they’d made me manic instead of helping. Needless to say, that report was full of shit. And guess what? I decided not to include it. End of story.

I never really liked my country before I heard of all this. Now I’m pretty glad to have been born here, although I’m worried about where we’re heading. First they introduced co-pay, now more and more hospitals are being privatised. I don’t want anyone whose main interest is making profit to be in charge of my health. No, thanks. I hope we never reach a point where every new doctor I meet knows my entire history already … because I can’t afford to emigrate.

Yes, but …

I want to say something about an argument that I have seen opponents of the Fat Acceptance movement use quite a few times by now, which goes approximately like this:

In order to gain weight, you have to consume more energy than you expend. If you gain weight suddenly although neither your eating habits nor the amount of exercise that you get have changed (for example due to a medical condition or a drug), it therefore follows that your body has either started to expend less energy than before or it has learned to extract more energy from food than it used to. Technically you should be able to stay the same weight by adjusting your habits to these new conditions, but OMGWTF people are stupid and listen to their hunger signals instead (which we assume to be misleading because they’ve been warped by the disease/medication).

Now, in theory that makes sense. Really, it does. The problem is that a lot of people have actually been in that situation, and their experiences cannot be ignored as they provide us with additional information. Remember that theories, as a general rule, need to be put into practice and tested in real life to see if they hold true.

From what I’ve gathered (and yes, I’m basing this on anecdotal evidence, as I am not aware of any research dealing with that particular scenario), what tends to happen is that you either restrict your food intake further and further to no avail, or that you do manage to control your weight – while suffering consequences that are not only unbearable, but cannot be healthy, either.

I’m not talking about missing your former lifestyle or being irritable due to a sudden lack of comfort food. I’m talking about actual adverse side-effects. Burning stomach pain. Fatigue. Dizzy spells. Inability to concentrate. Being cold all the time. Dry skin. Does that sound familiar yet? Yes, it is possible to experience symptoms of starvation without losing weight. How? Why? I wouldn’t know. Since nobody appears to be interested in funding research of that kind, we will just have to accept that we don’t know the answer yet.

Perhaps those drugs and diseases simply cause you to need more energy. Would that be so horrible? Considering that I have taken meds which gave me symptoms of mania, full-body rashes and indigestion, I can’t help but think that it’s one of the most harmless side-effects I have ever heard of.