U.S. doctors are gods ... NOT!

STORIES documenting the worrisome state of U.S. medicine

(No wonder U.S. care is so expensive and saturated with medical errors.)
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Introduction:

In 2005, at the age of 62 and in the first year of retirement, I underwent 3 surgeries and experienced a disturbing combination of

  • brief office visits ... brief to the point of rudeness (and to the tune of more than $20 per minute ... in other words, a rate of more than $1200 per hour) ,

  • poor post-op instructions --- leading to lots of avoidable pain and probably to avoidable cartilage and bone damage,

  • questionable surgical procedures (extra procedures beyond what was verbally agreed to ; padding the bill? ), and

  • back and knee injury under general anesthesia of one of the 3 operations.


Some effects of (and details about) the surgeries :

I am not a person who likes to see doctors or the insides of hospitals. These 3 surgeries in 2005 (all 3 under general anesthesia) were my first surgeries since an office surgery I had when I was 32 (30 years earlier) ... and that was under local anesthesia.

I had one other surgery, under general anesthesia (ether, gas, 'old school'), when I was about 8 years old, around 1950 --- a tonsillectomy-adenoidectomy.

So I had been surgery-free for 30 years --- and I had been general-anesthesia-free for about 54 years.

One of my three 2005 surgeries was a meniscus surgery on my right-knee. After the surgery, as my wife and I were leaving the hospital, a nurse advised that I should be putting weight on the knee as soon as possible. That evening I was amazed how I could go up and down stairs so soon. I thought "This arthroscopic surgery is amazing". But then, a day later, the local anesthesia in the knee (I later found out it was morphine) wore off. OWWWWW! I had months of knee pain after that. In fact, going down stairs was much more painful than going up, and for two-and-a-half years I had to use the handrails on our stairs whenever going downstairs --- otherwise the pain in my right knee was unbearable.

That knee surgery was also the surgery in which the bill may have been padded. I thought the doctor and I had an agreement that the damaged meniscus would be the only thing dealt with in the operation --- that is, he was to remove no more tissue than necessary, especially since cartilage is so difficult for the body to replace. But when I got the surgery bill from medical insurers, for review, I found that a 'major synovectomy' (removal of the tissue that lubricates the knee) and some cartilage 'debridement' (removal from knee surfaces) had been done. The meniscus trimming was about $2,000 of the bill --- the 'major synovectomy' and 'debridement' was another $4,000. Plus, other hospital charges brought the total bill for the surgery to about $18,000.

You would think that if the doctor is going to charge that much, he could at least have the nurse give proper post-op instructions so that the patient does not put weight on the operated-upon structures, before the local anesthesia wears off, and likely undo the benefits of the operation, if any. I say 'if any' because the 'debridement' and 'major synovectomy' may have done damage that outweighed any benefits of the meniscus trimming.

More surgery stories:
When I told my accountant, in 2007, of my lingering back injury after one of the surgeries in 2005, she told me of her experience. She went in for a head surgery on blood vessels in her head --- which turned out to be a 10 hour surgery --- and came out with a serious hip injury that was plaguing her at least 2 years later --- she was seeing a chiropractor periodically for some relief.

Apparently the doctors did not have her hip supported properly while she was under general anesthesia for the 10 hours. And, apparently, doctors/nurses/attendants did not have my left-hip and lower-back and right-knee supported properly at some point during my general anesthesia for one of my three operations in 2005. After that operation, I had serious right-knee, left-hip, and lower-back pains that I did not have before the operation.

(The left-hip pains eventually abated after about 2 years, the right-knee pains after about 6 years, and the added lower-back pains were still with me 7 years later.)

After the BACK-knee-hip injuries that I received under general anesthesia in 2005 (June 30) --- from doctors or nurses or attendants (the doctor would not 'fess up to any surgery room accidents when I asked about the new back pain after the surgery) --- I would advise anyone to have local anesthesia --- RATHER THAN general anesthesia --- whenever possible. Or have a close relative or friend watching the surgery, through a surgery room window, or whatever viewing-situation that can be arranged.

In other words, if you MUST have general anesthesia, then have a vocal patient advocate (spouse, parent, whatever) present at the hospital ... preferably viewing the operating room rather than waiting outside. It might encourage nurses and attendants to be careful when moving a patient from a gurney to the operating table, for example.


Years later :

I still suffer daily-and-hourly from the back injury. Admittedly, I may have had some back abnormalities before surgery (as many people do), but I should not have had additional, intense, chronic pain after the surgery.

Because of experiences (like those above) with doctors, every time I see the phrase "consult your doctor before doing X" or "ask your doctor if drug-X is right for you" ... in just about any article or advertisement about exercise or diet or medicine ... I am reminded of the expensive, yet damaging, "care" that I have received from the U.S. medical system.

Moreover, those admonishments to consult your doctor seem to assume that your doctor knows your condition as if you were visiting his/her office on a weekly or daily basis. Most doctors are so busy seeing patients that, in order to remind themselves of your health conditions, they need to review their records on you before seeing you.

So it is rather ludicrous to see all these "ask your doctor if X is OK for you" warnings --- especially if your pain condition or cause (back, knee, whatever) is not totally clear --- even with X-rays and MRI-scans.

In those kinds of cases, the patient is most likely the best judge of what is going to be OK for them. The patient is the one feeling the pain --- and often the patient needs immediate response for a given pain incident. A doctor who cannot see them for a week or even a day is not going to be able to give the patient timely help.

The informed patient is the best judge in those cases. Hence it is best that the patient find (and be given) the best knowledge and data possible on their condition. For example, the patient should have access to all their X-rays --- from long ago as well as recent.

In any case, because of my history of pains, the following stories are being collected to document the sad state of U.S. medi$$$ine ... and to let people know:

"let the patient beware"

and

"let the patient be aware".

NOTE: Many of these are drug stories, rather than surgery stories.


STORY 1.

Here is one person's experience with the sleep drug Ambien, and with some U.S. doctors:

"Ambien gave me a great night's sleep after years of wakefulness. The cost [i.e. drawback] was disabling digestive problems: bloating, pain, and acid reflux.

After a year of pain, more than $20,000 in uncomfortable testing and drugs for reflux, I took myself off Ambien. Two doctors had insisted that my digestive woes were not related to Ambien, but after three nights of sleeplessness, the digestive problems went away."

Source: An April 2007 "People's Pharmacy" newspaper column.


STORY 2.

"After 10 years of being diagnosed repeatedly with diverticulitis and treated with antibiotics, my digestive system went crazy, and I lost bowel control.

More antibiotics and prednisone were prescribed. One doctor wanted to do surgery, perhaps a colostomy, on my bowel.

I sought a second opinion and the doctor prescribed probiotics (VSL No. 3). A week later I was fine. After four years, I have no more diverticulitis and my system works fine. No diarrhea."

Source: An April 2007 "People's Pharmacy" newspaper column.


MORE :

I plan to add more stories here. There are a million of them out there, in the U.S. alone.


BOOKS :

Some books with more disgusting U.S. stories on drugs and surgery :

1) "Overdosed America", John Abramson M.D., 2004, Harper Collins

    Contains story after story of how pharmaceutical companies are
    • distorting research results and
    • hiding information on adverse effects (and exaggerating or 'manufacturing' beneficial effects)

    for the drugs they are marketing or seeking to get approved.

    The really worrisome result is that most doctors accept the reports of the pharmaceutical companies. The typical doctor is too busy to review the data behind the pharmaceutical company reports --- and much of the "telling" data is inaccessible.

2) "Special Treatment --- How to Get the Same High-Quality Health Care Your Doctor Gets", Kevin J. Soden M.D. and Christine Dumas D.D.S., 2003, Berkley Books

    In particular, see
  • page 106 on a knee repair --- surgery to repair previous surgery
  • page 110 on a general and local anesthesia dispute
  • page 123, 10 questions to ask before surgery
  • page 134, 10 critical questions to ask before taking prescription medicines
  • page 19, 8 things doctors know about getting best care
  • page 83, doctors avoid hospitalization whenever possible
  • page 83, 6 items to know about surgery at a hospital
  • page 40, constructive steps to confront unacceptable medical behavior
  • page 30, 10 tips on how to help doctor make correct diagnosis
  • page 134, case of too high dose for female (doctor insisted)
  • page 130, case of aspirin interaction causing nose bleed

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Page was created 26 Apr 2007. Changed formatting 2012 May 05.