Apr 26, 2019
On his regular rounds at the University of Southern California’s Keck Hospital, Dr. David Armstrong lives a brutal injustice of American health care.
Each week, dozens of patients with diabetes come to him with deep wounds, severe infections and poor circulation — debilitating complications of a disease that has spiraled out of control. He works to save their limbs, but sometimes Armstrong and his team must resort to amputation to save the patient, a painful and life-altering measure he knows is nearly always preventable.
For decades now, the American medical establishment has known how to manage diabetes. Even as the number of people living with the illness continues to climb — today, estimated at more than 30 million nationwide — the prognosis for those with access to good health care has become far less dire. With the right medication, diet and lifestyle changes, patients can learn to manage their diabetes and lead robust lives.
Yet across the country, surgeons still perform tens of thousands of diabetic amputations each year. It’s a drastic procedure that stands as a powerful example of the consequences of being poor, uninsured and cut off from a routine system of quality health care.