Humans and Subhumans: Weill Cornell and the Death of the American Soul

Walking into 1305 York Avenue for the first time, one feels almost imbued with a sense of awe. Set in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Weill Cornell Medical Center oozes money, power, and privilege.  Met by smiling residents when you are sent to an examination room, a newcomer could easily fall under the erroneous impression that this is a medical facility governed by principals of humanity, ethics, and compassion for all.

It is only later that one learns that all patients that walk through the door of Weill Cornell are put into two categories: the humans, who are deemed by Cornell to have “good insurance,” and the subhumans, who are deemed by Cornell to have “bad insurance.” If you fall into the category of the former, they will generally make a grudging effort to provide you with good care. If you fall into the category of the later, they will literally bend over backwards to see to it that you are provided with truly awful and atrocious care.

Cornell is a metaphor for all that is wrong in 21st Century American society. That in the year 2017, patients with different forms of medical insurance can be deliberately provided with radically different forms of medical care is a disgrace, a scandal, and an outrage; yet this is barely met with so much as a yawn from our mainstream press and media.

Indeed millions of Americans find nothing wrong in this practice as they have been indoctrinated to believe that it is perfectly natural for wealthy and upper middle class Americans to receive infinitely superior medical care and education in contrast with the ever-growing number of Americans that are being left jobless and destitute in the New Economy. And there are millions of Americans who are provided with substandard care at corrupt institutions like Cornell every year, and who accept this treatment, often because their insurance leaves them with no other option.  Inculcated by neoliberal ideology to believe that it is their fault that they don’t have better insurance, they silently endure this horror, shame, and humiliation.

For the impoverished masses at Cornell, it is virtually impossible to ever meet with your physician in private, and they will invite everyone and their mother to sit in on what should otherwise be a private session between the patient and their physician: full body dermatology exams, news that you have some horrible disease, nothing is ever off limits. At Cornell, patients with limited financial means and weak insurance plans are denied the right to privacy as this is now considered to be a privilege and not a right.

In contrast, if you pass for a human, you are allowed to book an appointment with a seasoned dermatology professor, and you will be examined in private without having to suffer the indignity of having a resident looking on, and a nurse incessantly going in and out of the room while you are undressed.

This practice is defended in the name of educating the younger generation of doctors, but the real message the residents are being inculcated with is that patients that aren’t earning six figure salaries, or who aren’t independently wealthy are just commodities and slabs of meat that have no right to privacy, and no right to good care unlike the “other patients.” As most of these residents have received a terrible education in the humanities, this is deemed perfectly normal and rational to them; and like ambitious young journalists, they mindlessly follow orders, not even being able to conceive of the fact that their superiors could be issuing unethical instructions.

And this, incidentally, takes place in one of the most prestigious dermatology programs in the country!

Indeed, leaving the Cornell Dermatology Residents Clinic after a standard checkup feels like you’ve just been strip-searched at an airport. It shouldn’t be that way, but this is the inevitable result when patients without significant sums of money are treated as if they were commodities and not real human beings.

In April of 2016, I had a tumor removed from my neck by a head and neck surgeon at Cornell Otolaryngology.  Immediately following the operation, I was summarily informed by a resident that it was benign. When I went back to Cornell ENT a week later for what I was told would simply be a routine visit to have the sutures removed, I was met by yet another resident, whom I had never even met before, and who was completely unqualified to be placed in this extremely grave situation.

Stumbling and bumbling like an embarrassed child, she proceeded to inform me that I had Metastatic Melanoma, that I would have to have all the lymph nodes in my neck removed, and that I had to go to Dermatology immediately. Perhaps he was having lunch at Les Halles that day, but whatever the case may be, my esteemed head and neck surgeon didn’t deem it to be particularly important to show up to this session.

A few days later, I was told I didn’t have Metastatic Melanoma at all, but that I had Interdigitating Dendritic Cell Sarcoma – a one in two hundred million diagnosis – and if widespread, an extremely deadly disease.

In the months that followed, four additional pathology reports were obtained: from MD Anderson, MSKCC, Stanford, and Dana Farber, all of whom debunked and categorically rejected the Interdigitating Dendritic Cell Sarcoma diagnosis. Consequently, I received three diagnoses from Weill Cornell, and in time, each was proven to be erroneous.

A big reason for all of this chaos and anarchy was that due to my “bad insurance,” Cornell put me in the Otolaryngology Clinic, where residents are hanging from the chandeliers, and mistakes can much more easily be made. Cornell actually has two separate otolaryngology facilities: one for patients with “good insurance,” and the the other for patients with “bad insurance.” The facility for the more affluent and upper middle class patients is naturally much nicer, but you can also meet in private with your otolaryngologist, which is in stark contrast to the deranged zoo-like atmosphere of what some refer to as the Crappy Insurance Clinic.

After a PET scan showed uptake in the liver, Cornell Oncology then had the gall to assign me an extremely inexperienced fellow to be my oncologist – and this was done after telling me I had something so rare that many oncologists have never even heard of it.

And it was then that I was to learn that with oncology too – Cornell actually has two separate clinics: one for affluent and upper middle class patients, and an Oncology Fellows Clinic, which boasts one of the most disgusting facilities in all of Manhattan, and where unsupervised fellows are essentially allowed to perform medical experiments on live human beings. (At Sloan Kettering fellows get the coffee).

The difference between being treated by residents and fellows in the Cornell Oncology Fellows Clinic, or the Dermatology Residents Clinic and being seen in their bright new shiny clinics by Cornell Medical School professors, for those who are deemed to have “good” insurance, is like the difference between going to a fancy prep school on the Upper East Side, or going to a violence infested public high school in the South Bronx. It is not an exaggeration to say that when it comes to providing rich and poor with radically different care, Cornell is literally a hospital out of a Charles Dickens novel.

The United States currently has one of the most satanic and diabolical health care systems in the Western world. Our education system mirrors this precisely, and is arguably even worse. Our mainstream press and mass media refuse to discuss the situation honestly, and consequently, there is no real acknowledgment of the true nature of the crisis.

Moreover, morally bankrupt liberals have decided that good health care and education are a privilege and not a right, and that it is wiser to spend trillions of dollars bombing other countries, and slaughtering people. The Obama administration bombed Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia; while also orchestrating the Banderite coup in Ukraine, which directly led to the present horrific war in that country, rather than putting that money into our education and health care systems where it belongs.

If the US National Basketball team lost even one single game, there would be a huge outcry amongst sports writers. Where is the outcry as our health care system collapses, and our education system lies in smoldering ruins?

Americans must demand a complete nationalization of our health care system or we are doomed to be slaves to this medieval barbarism that is being doled out daily by degenerate insurance companies, and corrupt medical institutions such as Weill Cornell, who not only knowingly provide massive numbers of their patients with substandard care, but who do it with a smile on their face, thinking that they have done something altruistic and wonderful, that they are God’s gift to medicine, the very salt of the earth.

David Penner’s articles on politics and health care have appeared in Dissident Voice, CounterPunch, Global Research, The Saker blog, OffGuardian and KevinMD; while his poetry can be found at Dissident Voice, Mad in America, and Also a photographer, he is the author of three books of portraiture: Faces of The New Economy, Faces of Manhattan Island, and Manhattan Pairs. He can be reached at Read other articles by David.