Staying Alive for Who?

I had a heart attack in November of 2012. After a weekend stay in a local hospital and surgery that ended up costing my insurance company more than $100,000 and me about $10,000, I left the hospital with a bag of drugs and $200 worth of cardiac stent in my chest. Two months later, I had a “follow-up” appointment with my doctor and almost by accident he pointed me at a book about diet and heart problems, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do about It, by Gary Taubes. The discouraging thing that I learned from this book and subsequent research related to the references in Taubes’ book is that American doctors are uneducated, uninterested in healthcare, and mostly doing what they do out of greed and ignorance rather than a sincere attempt to provide a useful service to their community.

This is entirely consistent with something I realized at least 20 years ago. Sometime in the 1950’s American doctors were forced to decide if they wanted to be respected, honored contributors to society or be rich. Like all humans, 90% of doctors are weak, greedy, lazy, and stupid and they picked “rich.” Since then, community hospitals became privatized. Medical decisions began to be made at the upper levels of hospital administration, followed by the acquisition of locally owned hospitals by corporate conglomerates where those medical decisions became even less medical and more financial. The best part of this story is that most doctors didn’t even get rich out of their foolish, greedy, lazy decision. Even worse for docs, we don’t think enough of their owned-by-Big-Pharma opinions to listen to them if feel even a little slighted. Doctors, like car mechanics, are just a commodity and we’ll swap docs on a whim if we don’t like their manners.

If you take an interest in your own healthcare, you will find that information about why, where, and who is decidedly unavailable. Try asking your doctor about the model and brand of hip or knee replacement, cardiac, or any other medical device he’s recommending. You will find that it is treated as something that “is none of your business.” The doctor is only doing what he’s told to do, protect the hospital administration from lawsuits by keeping patients (now called “customers”) as stupid as possible. You’re worried about the government interfering with medical decisions? Fuck that. I’ll take a government bureaucrat over a corporate asshole any day. I can change my government. Nothing short of bullets or jail time will change a CEO’s decisions. CEO’s buy and sell governments like gumballs or popcorn.

factory-farm-chickens About a month after my cardiologist follow-up, I decided that the medications I was given were so contraindicated for both my condition and my medical history that I gave them all up. Two of the six meds were contraindicated for patients with depression history: like me. Two of the meds were for high blood pressure and are contraindicated for use together: I do not have high blood pressure. Two of the meds were for early post-surgery use and should have been discontinued but weren’t because doctors don’t bother to learn much about the drugs they’re told to prescribe. Pretty much everything I learned about my cardiologist’s treatment was that he’s just going through the motions. He’s peddling drugs, because a drug company has bought his hospital administration, and devices because a device company sent him to an “educational seminar” in the Caribbean Islands last winter. If I die tomorrow because he over-prescribed me with contraindicated drugs and implanted a device that the FDA will recall in a couple of months, it’s no skin off of his neck because the whole US medical system is bought and paid for and I have about as many rights as a patient as a Tyson Farms chicken.

When I had my first heart attack, my only symptom was a neck ache that felt suspiciously like pressure in my carotid artery. The first doctor I saw, at my usual clinic on a weekend where I was seen by one of their reject “emergent care” docs who couldn’t accurately read a 12-lead ECG and mis-diagnosed my problem. After an overpriced joy ride to an emergency room in a glorified panel truck driven by a pair of goofballs who couldn’t insert an IV with a hammer if my veins were a foot wide and deep, I eventually was seen by a real doctor with real tools who found a “slightly elevated” enzyme “marker” that indicated possible cardiac damage. Three days later, I left the hospital worried about my new implant (based on 10 years in the medical device industry and way too much knowledge of how corrupt doctors and medical corporations are) and a whole lot poorer.

30 years ago, a friend had a heart attack and after he was revived with external defibrillation he told his doctors that if they ever did that again he would shoot them dead at the first opportunity. He started carrying a snub-nose .32 in his pocket just in case, afterwards. I think that might have to be my response. I just don’t think American doctors know enough about medicine to be helpful and I know they can be dangerous, stupid, and lazy enough to do some serious damage. Now that I qualify for Medicare, I’m not sure I want it.

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