Numbers from the Iraq War

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Last night I spoke to Gerry Grant, who served as a neurotrauma surgeon in Iraq. I was telling him about the trouble I’d been having digging up numbers on the Iraq War, and he commented that it was no surprise to him. I’ll leave readers to decide the context, but Grant also raised a good point about medical costs.

A few weeks ago, 60 minutes aired a special on wartime medicine, and one physician commented that a soldier had gone through a million dollars worth of treatment in little more than a week’s time. It’s a likely figure, but it’s hard to actually prove. What would it cost to pay for ten surgeons to give you emergency service simultaneously? What would it cost to load an entire intensive care unit onto a massive cargo plane? What would it cost to build a computerized system capable of fashioning a new skull for you? Because the dollars in military care are aggregated, it’s difficult to come up with a solid number.

Same thing goes with body counts. Click here to read a good article on that complexity.

The real costs, I’m afraid, are going to be on the backs of the survivors themselves and the communities that attempt to support them. With healthcare premiums ballooning and average care of TBI patients exceeding 5 million dollars over the course of a lifetime, we only commit a grave disservice to our soldiers if we continue to ignore the issue.

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