A Final Postscript about Health
As a book about phar maceutical politics, this was meant to be about health
and its reconﬁgurations as it gets appropriated by logics of capital. Yet it has
ended up in equal mea sure being about the po litical as it gets constituted in
con temporary India, its explanations resting, if provisionally, upon questions
of the demo cratic. Indeed, my linkage of the po litical to the demo cratic is a
conscious conceptual move away from a lineage of social theory about the con-
temporary life sciences that, following Michel Foucault, articulates the po litical
to “life itself.”21 Even as phar maceutical politics in India are repeatedly overde-
termined by questions of health and illness, life and death, life itself suggests a
sacralization of such politics that does not do empirical justice to the stakes of
the po litical as they emerge in the domains that I am concerned with.22 Yet of
course health matters, not just as a structural abstraction but in deeply embod-
ied, subjective, and experience- proximal ways.
My father passed away from stomach cancer as this book was under review.
He was virtually asymptomatic; only a stomachache that did not respond to
treatment for gastritis led to the sequence of tests that diagnosed the cancer. He
was immediately hospitalized for a total gastrectomy, in a private hospi tal in
Chennai. He was operated upon by the city’s most renowned gastric surgeon.
He was recovering well from his surgery and due to be discharged in a couple
of days, though the biopsy of his stomach suggested a cancer far more advanced
than we had expected, with poor prognosis. One eve ning, his oxygen levels sud-
denly started dropping precipitously. In spite of desperate attempts to revive
him, he had a sequence of cardiac arrests. Within an hour, he had passed away.
I had spent nearly a de cade researching and writing about the politics surround-
ing an anticancer drug, but nothing prepared me for the visceral proximity of
the disease, even though this encounter with it was all too fleeting. I miss him.
There was no evident malpractice on the part of the hospital. A cardiac ar-
rest can happen to anyone, and this one was possibly caused by a pulmonary
embolism. My father had all three major risk factors—old age, postoperative,
cancer— for developing such an embolism. Nonetheless, my family and I have
felt a lack of closure, an inarticulate anger, toward the hospital. As a former
government employee, my father’s surgery had been approved for reimburse-
ment by the Central Government Health Scheme. Yet the hospital deci ded that
the amount approved was insuﬃcient and refused to conduct any preoperative
tests or even attend to him until we changed his status to a private, full- paying
patient. They did not deign to inform us of this, however; so he spent his ﬁrst
day in the hospital wondering why no one was coming to see him, already