The healthcare reform debate just reached a new level of vitriol, with a pro-reform protester biting off the fingertip of a counter-demonstrator in a fistfight between the two men, according to police in California.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department says the brawl erupted Wednesday evening outside a shopping mall in the Los Angeles suburb of Thousand Oaks.
Dozens of protesters holding a rally in support of President Obama’s healthcare reform plan got into a shouting match with a smaller group of anti-reform demonstrators across the street. The conflict escalated as a member of the pro-Obama group and a member of the counter-demonstration confronted each other and a physical fight ensued, sheriff’s spokesman Eric Buschow said.
The fisticuffs ended when the counter-protester, 65-year-old William James Rice, realized that the last third of his left pinky had been bitten off, Buschow said. He drove himself to a nearby emergency room, and a bystander who scooped the severed digit off the pavement and put it in a bag followed Rice to the hospital.
A hospital spokeswoman said Rice ultimately chose not to have doctors reattach the fingertip. Instead, his wound was cleaned and sewn up in the emergency room and he was sent home that night. She added that Rice was covered by Medicare, the government’s health insurance plan for the elderly.