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"Italian nurses are better-looking...These [U.S.] ones scare me a bit. Don't even think about leaving me alone at night with one of them."

December 22, 2006 -- These are the reported comments of Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Opposition leader, former Prime Minister (2001-2006), and billionaire media tycoon, on December 22, 2006, analyzing the care he was receiving at the Cleveland Clinic while receiving a pacemaker.

We know what you're thinking: what a nice way for Mr. Berlusconi (right) to say "thank you" to the skilled U.S. nurses who'd been keeping him alive, and to demonstrate his diplomatic skills. But our problem is not so much with the former Prime Minister's views on whether one group of nurses is more attractive than another. And we realize that Mr. Berlusconi's latter comments are an attempt at humor.

But we are troubled by a world in which those at the very pinnacle of the governmental, corporate, and media sectors--e.g., Mr. Berlusconi--would even suggest that the measure of a nurse is her physical appearance. His comment about being left alone at night suggests that he may also believe that it is a nurse's job to provide sex to patients. Or maybe he just thinks U.S. nurses are such monsters that they might attack him, rather than simply making the expected nursing sex unpleasant.

Whichever it is, it seems that Mr. Berlusconi does not understand that nurses are not models or sex workers. Instead, they are health professionals with years of college-level science training whose job it is to keep patients alive 24/7. Had the esteemed Cleveland Clinic obliged Mr. Berlusconi by keeping all the nurses away from him at night, he could well have died. Of course, if his attitudes prevail, he and everyone else may soon find out what it's like to get no skilled nursing care.

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Silvio Berlusconi
Forza Italia
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00187 ROMA

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