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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

9/5/2011 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

24-year-old unemployed father elected to buy pain killers in lieu of antibiotics

In an especially shameful episode that highlights the plight of those in the U.S. without medical insurance, a 24-year-old father has died from a wisdom tooth infection. Unable to afford both pain killers and antibiotics, Kyle Willis of Cincinnati, Ohio died after the infection spread.

Kyle Willis, who was unemployed and did not have medical insurance, purchased $3 pain medication instead of the $27 antibiotics because he couldn't afford it. The decision cost him his life as his wisdom tooth infection spread to his brain, killing him.

Kyle Willis, who was unemployed and did not have medical insurance, purchased $3 pain medication instead of the $27 antibiotics because he couldn't afford it. The decision cost him his life as his wisdom tooth infection spread to his brain, killing him.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/5/2011 (3 years ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Health insurance, dentistry, infection, antibiotics


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "He [Willis] might as well have been living in 1927," Dr. Jim Jirjis, director of general internal medicine at Vanderbilt University said. "All of the advances we've made in medicine today and are proud of, for people who don't have coverage, you might as well never have developed those."

Jirjis says that people like Willis, without access to care often dies of conditions that were much more common decades ago.

Prior to his death, dentists told Willis his infected wisdom tooth needed to be pulled. Willis decided to forgo the procedure, because he was unemployed and had no health insurance.

When his face started to swell and his head began to ache, Willis went to the emergency room, where he received prescriptions for antibiotics and pain medications. Willis couldn't afford both, so he chose the pain medications. The infection spread, causing his brain to swell - he died last week.

"People don't realize that dental disease can cause serious illness," Dr. Irvin Silverstein, a dentist at the University of California at San Diego says. "The problems are not just cosmetic. Many people die from dental disease."

Tragically, Willis' story is not unique. In 2007, 12-year-old Deamonte Driver also died when a tooth infection spread to his brain. The Maryland boy underwent two operations and six weeks of hospital care, totaling $250,000. Doctors said a routine $80 tooth extraction could have saved his life.

Deamonte's family was uninsured and had recently lost its Medicaid benefits, preventing the boy from having dental surgery.

"When people are unemployed or don't have insurance, where do they go? What do they do?" Silverstein said. "People end up dying, and these are the most treatable, preventable diseases in the world."

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported earlier this year said that 33 percent of people surveyed skipped dental care or dental checkups because they couldn't afford them. A 2003 report by the U.S. Surgeon General found that 108 million Americans had no dental insurance, nearly 2.5 times the number who had no health insurance.

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