Articles by JCS

Medical Mistakes

Medical Mistakes




The recent series of newspaper articles titled “Medical Mistakes” by Andrea Gerlin, a Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer, were enlightening to those readers who are unfamiliar with the medical cartel’s path of destruction. Actually, she said nothing new that other medical whistle-blowers have done in the past in exposing the many ills within the present medical system. Other such exposés include work by writers like Lynn Payer, author of Disease-Mongers, Howard Wolinsky’s Serpent on the Staff, James P Carter, MD, DPH, author of Racketeering in Medicine, P. Joseph Lisa’s The Assualt on Medical Freedom, and Dissent in Medicine—Nine Doctors Speak Out written by nine medical doctor whistle-blowers, to name but a few of the many calls for medical healthcare reform.


What made Ms. Gerlin’s series more impactive is that she was able to reach far more readers when Knight-Ridder serialized her account of a few of the many problems patients face daily when they enter the medical system. While most of her series was old information to those of us inside the loop of medical messes, some of her comments broached issues rarely heard before in the mass media.


“Though the health-care industry represents one of the largest sectors of the American economy, it has failed to strive for the higher standards required in comparable industries. Health care costs the country an estimated $1.2 trillion a year and accounts for 14 percent of the gross domestic product…. In addition to injuries and deaths, the financial costs of medical errors are enormous. Testimony during a 1997 congressional hearing estimated that hospital mistakes cost the nation $51 billion a year….

“Though hospital executives, doctors and nurses complain about the burdensome requirement of regulations and licensing, in practice they have enjoyed a long and cherished tradition of autonomy when mistakes occur. ‘It’s very clear that the medical profession has been loath to police itself,’ said Jay Krakovitz, a physician and medical director for Aetna US Healthcare’s mid-Atlantic region….

“ ‘There is absolutely no reason for them to sweat,’ said Charles Inlander, president of the People’s Medical Society, a health-care advocacy group in Allentown. The result, according to Inlander: ‘This stuff just grows and grows and they never correct these problems.’ [do I hear an Amen?]

“ ‘It’s remarkable that people are blindly writing checks for crappy quality,’ said David Nash, associate dean and director of the Office of Health Policy and Clinical Outcomes at Thomas Jefferson University.


Aside from the injuries and deaths inherent to the risky business of medical practice so ably pointed out by Ms. Gerlin’s article, she overlooked the causes of these symptoms—namely, a sham marketplace that allows unnecessary surgeries and over-medication of patients to thrive. Oddly, she never question the rash of unnecessary and expensive procedures done daily in every hospital in America.


Considering that reportedly there were eleven prescriptions written last year for every man, woman and child in the US, it can easily be said we are the most drugged country in the history of the world. Combined with recreational drugs, over-the-counter drugs, chemicals in our foods and water, Americans are a potpourri of chemicals unlike any civilization has ever experienced.


Indeed, if all it takes to get well is more drugs, with the amount of drugs in our society, no one should ever be sick! But, in fact, they are, and it’s only getting worse. Americans lead the world in every category of chronic degenerative disease, and with the onslaught of junk phoods, this epidemic will only worsen as Generation X ages. Mark my word for we ain’t seen nothing yet!


Aside from the over-medicated, over-chemicalized society we live in, Ms. Gerlin also forgot to mention the fact that most surgeries are considered unnecessary. Lynn Payer in Disease-Mongers mentioned that one study found that up to 78% of cardiac surgeries were inappropriate—this as a result of a system that first decides how many heart surgeries it needs to perform, then goes out looking for bodies on which to perform them.


Considering the AHCPR guideline on LBP mentioned that “Surgery has been found to be helpful in only one in 100 cases of low back problems,” a case can be made that most back surgeries are unwarranted too. In light of the fact that MRI researchers like Scott Boden, orthopedist, of Emory University indicated that disc abnormalities like herniation and degeneration “may frequently be coincidental” in people with back pain, it’s obvious the disc theory is a major con-job perpetuated on the unsuspecting public. As Boden mentioned, “In fact, use of the MRI too early in somebody’s disease process can result in seeing these findings that are like gray hair—everybody gets them—and can result in over-treatment.” As a chiropractor seeing too many failed-back surgeries, my gut response to Dr. Boden’s declaration is simply, “No shit Sherlock!”


The fact that most back pain is joint dysfunction, not disc abnormalities is well-known in the scientific and chiropractic communities, but it’s a secret well kept from the unassuming public. The fact is you cannot “slip” a disc, but you can slip a joint causing much pain and dysfunction. Considering there are 137 spinal joints, it’s easy to understand the greater likelihood of joint dysfunction as a cause of back pain than disc abnormalities, which are believed to be secondary consequences of mechanical derangement. Yet, while the researchers know this fact, the middle men between them and the public—the AMA and its surgeons—continue to mislead the public with their outdated disc theory because it makes them a ton of money.


From Dissent in Medicine, Dr. David Spodick, Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts, stated that “Surgery is the sacred cow of our health-care system and surgeons are the sacred cowboys who milk it.” Is it little wonder that hospitals don’t like DCs because we’re too cheap? When a hospital administrator can charge $15,000 to $40,000 or more for radical back surgeries, why would he want a chiropractor on staff who will earn him a mere $800 per case?


P. Joseph Lisa, in The Assault on Medical Freedom, declares “Regrettably, restraint of trade, unfair trade practices, anti-competitive activity, and conspiracy to eliminate the competition have been hallmarks of American medicine. It has been this way from its conception and blatantly continues to this day.” Indeed, has the Wilk case liberated hospitals from the medical stranglehold? Of course not. Has the AHCPR guideline on LBP emancipated insurance programs to allow spinal manipulative therapy? Of course not. Has Dr. Manga’s reports urging chiropractic gatekeepers for all LBP cases been implemented anywhere? Of course not.


“New technologies are bursting onto the marketplace according to the free-market principles of Adam Smith. But they are not being paid for according to free market principles. Instead, they are reimbursed by compensation regulations set by doctors and insurance companies to maximize their profits and to keep out cheaper, more effective alternative therapies. They are set without regard to public health and healthcare policy concerns,” according to Dr. James Carter, in his book, Racketeering in Medicine.


Dr. Carter hit the nail on the head. While he and other medical whistle-blowers cite the many abuses, injuries, deaths, anti-competitive dirty tricks, price-gouging, unnecessary surgeries, adverse drug reactions, the medical cartel keeps on marching to its own drummer, ignoring these sour notes altogether. At best, they may make superficial PR stunts like TV ads depicting a caring attitude, but just talk with any hospital worker who will tell you the ugly truth about modern medicine. As one nurse/patient of mine recently said, “I never want to be a patient in my own hospital.”


What’s the answer to these huge problems of the medical cartel? Interjecting free market enterprise to allow competition to prevail, thus offering better services at lower prices? Only when hell freezes over will we see an open marketplace in healthcare. Aside from the many politicians in the pockets of the AMA, the “system” is geared to profit by patients’ demise. True “health” care—the ounces of prevention—are antithetical to the aims of the medical world who profits greatly by their monopolistic control and the “pound of cure” they extract daily.


On the other hand, would more governmental regulations control this abusive system? Is a single-payer system the solution like those in Canada and the Scandinavian countries? Since the US is the only major country that still has a for-profit healthcare system, converting to a single-payer system will be like pulling teeth without Novocain. We saw what happened to Clinton’s Health Care Reform Act in 1994—scuttled by the medical cartel and insurance companies who like things just the way they are, thank you very much. Every president since Truman has failed to reform this medical cartel, so I doubt any future president will be successful either. The medical cartel just has too much money and too much influence among people in high places.


Politicians are in the pockets of the AMA, insurance companies have more money than god to influence the powers-to-be, the medical society enjoys their monopoly, hospitals cringe at the thought of cheaper alternatives, chiropractors are in a constant state of disarray, the public is disenfranchised from the decision-making process, and much of the media lays at the feet of the medical cartel due to their advertisements. 


Indeed, how will change ever occur in this medical mess when the major players are happy just the way things presently are? While whistle-blowers decry the abuses and injustices within the healthcare delivery system, none have the wherewithal to fight the wealthy members of the medical cartel. How much worse must the medical mess become before a total overhaul is implemented? How many patients must die unnecessarily? How costly before they bankrupt our economy? Just how bad must it become before a total healthcare revolution, not a mere reform, will occur?


So, what’s the answer to this medical mess? You tell me. I’m just a country chiropractor who can’t see the light at the end of the medical tunnel. Can you?


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