Sick and Sicker: Essays on Class, Health, and Health Care (2010)

by Susan Rosenthal

Instead of challenging the sickness generated by capitalism, all existing medical models practice damage control. They accept the system as ‘given’ and restrict themselves to treating the casualties of the system. And it took a huge fight to get even that.


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Sick and Sicker is a scathing indictment of our medical systems and the social and economic structures of the society that they serve.

— Roger Hollander


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ISBN: 978-0-9959854-0-7
Pages: 148
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Table of Contents



  1. Inequality: The root source of sickness
  2. Engels and the WHO report
  3. Mental illness or social sickness?
  4. The myth of scarcity
  5. The US and Canada: Different forms of medical rationing
  6. The fight for medicare in Canada
  7. Assembly-line medicine
  8. Health care or damage control?
  9. The lessons of Chile



What does it mean to strive for health in a sick society run by psychopaths?” After 35 years of practicing medicine, I found myself asking this question.

This wasn’t the question I asked at the beginning of my career. I began by asking, “How can I help Jane Jones and Sam Smith?”

For decades, I immersed myself in the details of people’s miseries until, gradually, I saw a pattern emerge – an exploitive and heartless system was making people sick, the medical system was blaming them for being sick, and funding agencies were moaning about the cost of caring for the sick. I had wanted to be an agent of health, but I had become an agent of damage control for an utterly damaging social system.

In the following essays, I share the information that led me to conclude that human sickness is a product of sick social relationships and human health is a product of healthy social relationships.



Getting to the Root of a Sick System

by Roger Hollander

August 24, 2010  View full post
It is one of the great tragedies of contemporary human existence that the massive suffering that results from world-wide poverty and sickness is entirely unnecessary. Through past and present collective human productive creativity there exists sufficient wealth that the entire population of the planet should be able to live securely, free of economic deprivation and its derivatives (e.g. hunger, sickness, war, environmental degradation, etc.). But, as we know, the reality is otherwise.

The small but elite community who benefit from the profoundly unequal status quo (the tiny percentage who own and control massive accumulated wealth – i.e. capital) and the sycophantic community that follows in its wake (political pundits, organized religions, the corporate mass media, bought-and-paid-for academics, well-paid professionals, professional cynics, etc.) argue that world suffering is an unfortunate but inevitable product of unchangeable human nature and a scarcity of resources.

In Dr. Susan Rosenthal’s new book, Sick and Sicker: Essays on Class, Health and Health Care, a chapter entitled “The Myth of Scarcity” provides evidence that collectively-working human beings produce more than enough for everyone to live in relative comfort. “If the total wealth produced by American workers in 2003,” she points out, for example, “had been shared [equally], every U.S. family of four would have received $152,000 in that year alone and a much larger amount if it included a share of wealth produced in the past.”

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Rosenthal argues that the primary cause of poor mental and physical health is lack of social power, and she backs this claim with international research.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, has condemned our mental-health services as inhumane and grossly inadequate. Riot police have been deployed to quell violence in under-serviced, overcrowded facilities. O’Gorman exclaims, “There would be outrage if this happened in cancer care and there should be outrage now.”

These problems are systemic and cannot be blamed on individual staff, most of whom are committed to providing quality care.

Susan Rosenthal’s new book, Sick and Sicker: Essays on Class Health and Health Care, exposes the class roots of such problems.

– Patricia Campbell

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