American Medicine vs. French Medicine – Part 1

August 14, 2013

Vanity to the rescue.


I decided to inquire about the price of removing a large “age spot” on my face. Feeling lightly embarrassed by my interest in such a project: men of my age are expected to have such things, badges, if you will, of life spent.  “Age spot” had been the diagnosis, without bothering with a biopsy, from a US dermatologist, who for $70 suggested I try “bleaching creams” available from the receptionist,  $50 a tube, which I did. No results. No, in France, almost as cover, as if vanity was not really operating, I thought I’d have a odd mole on my leg looked at too. I got the appointment 7 days after I made the phone call. The French dermatologist insisted that I have the age spot biopsied as well as the spot on the leg. total cost, consultation, taking samples, lab work, $98.

Five days later I got a call from the dermatologist. Come in tomorrow. Uh oh. I knew something was up. Diagnosis given, the “age spot,” which I’ve been sporting now for 2 years under the comforting diagnosis from the American doctor is a Melanoma, stage 1. But prognostic bon. Whew. Caught in time. The reward of vanity.

The doctor made a phone call (this was Thursday) to the enormous Saint Louis Hospital (the largest and oldest in the city) asking them to set me up for surgery. As a precaution we took a second biopsy of the mole on my leg. The follow-up appointment, which included a second biopsy sample taken from the leg, local anesthetic, small sharp blade, etc, $70. The French dermatologist runs her entire practice by herself, no receptionist, no paper files, no secretarial staff – there is only one insurer to deal with in France –  no assistant, no nurse, no waiting in the waiting room either. I was taken both times at the time specified. Appointment over, the doctor saw me to the door and shook my hand. No white coat either. I carry with me the biopsy sample in an envelope, for which i will pay the postage and drop in a mail box. Biopsy $40, check enclosed. What a system! If I had been French, it all would have been virtually free.

The hospital called my home before I had even returned home, with an initial appointment for the following Wed. I called to confirm, told her when I was leaving France, and could the surgery be scheduled before Sept 5. She called me back in 20 minutes. I will have the thing removed next Thursday. All this by telephone, in French, with extremely well spoken (so I understood everything) and pleasant women with whom I could even joke a little – as in, after I’ve apologized for my stumbling over verb tenses and my accent,  “votre Francais est merveilleux, Madame,” which gets a laugh each time.

In the 2004 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney regularly threw chunks of red meat to the red-blooded Americans of his party. “You don’t want to be like France, do you? Socialized medicine!…” Romney had done his Mormon tour in Lille and apparently he and the Lillianese didn’t hit it off.



{ 1 comment }

AE Harris September 2, 2011 at 3:17 am

“All’s well that ends well” Phew! Your resolute nature saved you.
Let me review: No assistant, a floating nurse, no wait in the waiting room, indicating no read time, magazines to flip through, it sounds rather, a bit, somewhat, kind of uncivilized. One exception, the tip tapping of the doctor’s stiletto heels covered in green booties, only in France.
“Virtually free”? Sounds interesting. A citizen pays nothing. As the devil’s advocate….somebody pays.
Not fair, I wanted this to be sneaky and of unknown authorship.

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