Malpractice Makes Perfect
"Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died."
Two articles in the January 17, 2003 New York Times offered a telling glimpse at what passes for health care in the home of the brave.
First, in "White House Allows Limits on Emergency Coverage," we learn that "the Bush administration has ruled that managed care organizations can limit and restrict coverage of emergency services for poor people on Medicaid."
Okay, shortly after he proposed yet another tax break for his rich buddies, it's not too shocking that our Supreme Court-elected leader would continue to kick the poor while they're down, but here's a question: Reduced access or not, what kind of treatment are any of us getting in the typical American emergency room anyway?
But first, the other Times article:
In "Bush Enters the Fray Over Malpractice," reporter Richard A. Oppel Jr. opens like this: "With doctors across the country protesting the cost of malpractice insurance, President Bush is making a renewed push for strict limits on the jury awards he blames for skyrocketing premiums." Blaming "frivolous lawsuits," Bush declared: "We're a litigious society. Everybody is suing, it seems like."
As the Times ignored the reality that the vast majority of lawsuits in America pit corporation against corporation, another question remained unasked: Why have the number of malpractice suits increased?
Here's a thought:
*There are 80 million gun owners in America and 1500 accidental gun deaths
*There are 700,000 doctors in the U.S. who cause 120,000 accidental deaths
*Statistically speaking, doctors are 9000 times more dangerous than gun owners.
Botched surgeries, incorrect dosages, missed diagnoses-even when you take into account all gun-related deaths (30,708 in 1998), the AMA is still three times more lethal than the NRA. Of course, such numbers are disputed by groups with reason to do so. A 2001 study purported to show that medical mistake estimates are exaggerated, claiming that one of the reasons the examination of deadly errors is flawed is because patients often are extremely ill to begin with (they were gonna die anyway?). Still, before you trust any pro-medical industry study, you might want to contemplate another bit of research that exposed doctors as admitted liars. A University of Chicago Medical Center study found that in four out of 10 cases, doctors intentionally told patients they would live longer than expected.
"Although nearly everyone agrees that frank, open and honest communication between a doctor and his patient is optimal, on this one absolutely crucial issue, it remains very much the exception," said study co-author Dr. Nicholas Christakis, professor of medicine and sociology at the University of Chicago. "As a consequence, two out of three patients may have to make important medical and personal decisions based on missing or unreliable information."
The trouble is, it doesn't really matter what all these studies allegedly demonstrate. Mistakes are inevitable. A mechanic will screw up your car and lie about it. Your teachers will go through the motions and lie to themselves. A writer will publish a terrible book and blame the editor. What makes doctors different is that stakes are usually higher. But perhaps more importantly, even when they get it "right" and they tell the "truth," they're no less dangerous than the doctors who make mistakes and/or lie. Whether it's human error or misguided science, Western medicine is-directly or indirectly-the number one killer in America. Read on.
When the US system plays the prevention card (i.e. the smallpox scare), it has nothing to do with adopting a healthier lifestyle. It's all about drugs and high-tech intervention. For example, even though most of us have a reasonably functional immune system, we'll be pressured into getting a so-called vaccine that may contain any of the following: formaldehyde, mercury, aluminum, cells from sickened animals (calf lymph, monkey kidney, chick embryo), and genetically-altered materials. The impact is difficult to quantify.
"There are about 12,000 reports made to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System every year," explains Barbara Loe Fisher, president and co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center. "If the number 12,000 only represents 10 percent of what is occurring, then the real number may be 120,000 vaccine adverse events. If 12,000 reports represents only one percent of the actual total, then the real number may be 1.2 million vaccine adverse events annually."
"'Immunity' is a grand medical delusion," writes vaccination activist, Sharon Kimmelman. "Immune function, though, like all other body processes, responds to and is the direct result of changing beneficial and detrimental health practices and factors. There is no magic pill or potion which will lock us into a state of 'protection' in spite of our actions. We are biologically accountable for our behavior. Technology cannot trick it without serious repercussions."
"The more the reality of vaccine reactions, injuries and deaths is denied and minimized," Fisher adds, "the more distrustful the people will become."
Despite submitting to a purported immunization, many of us get sick anyway. That's when the man in the white coat whips out his prescription pad and sends us off the local pharmacy where we'll undoubtedly encounter a line since every day, 80 percent of Americans take a potentially addictive prescription drug. From 1962 to 1988, street drug addiction in America increased by 30 percent while prescription drug addiction increased by 300 percent. In most cases, these drugs are improperly tested and based on fraudulent science. According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, of all the new drugs put on the market between 1976 and 1985, 52 percent had to be either pulled from the shelves or relabeled because they proved to be more hazardous than studies had indicated.
Both the shot that failed and the drug that made things worse are based upon research that is usually funded by corporations. In their book, "Trust Us, We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future," authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber discuss the vast amount of time that "a modern researcher spends writing grant proposals; coddling department heads; corporate donors, and government bureaucrats; or engaging in any of the other activities that are necessary to obtain research funding." The influence of this money on research can result in the
suppression of certain studies while corporations commission writers to pen favorable articles in peer-reviewed journals. A study of the relationship of pharmaceutical industry funding and research conclusions about calcium-channel blockers was published in 1998 in the New England Journal of Medicine. After examining 70 articles on the drug, researchers found that 96 percent of the authors of favorable articles had financial ties to manufacturers of calcium-channel blockers. One year later, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Drummond Rennie, complained that the "influence of private funding on medical research has created 'a race to the ethical bottom.'"
Government agencies have also become bottom dwellers: "Pharmaceutical companies are big campaign finance contributors having given $44 million over the last ten years," explains Dr. Ray Greek, president of Americans For Medical Advancement. "Food and Drug Administration scientists who approve drugs or decide upon regulations are also current, past or future employees of the drug industry. They are inextricably tied to the industry that they are supposed to be policing. What this means is that the FDA is effectively financed and staffed by the pharmaceutical industry. The agency 'works for' the industry, not for consumers, because consumers are not making campaign contributions; nor are they arbiters of job security."
Whether the research is privately funded or not, it would be doomed to failure since it typically relies on animal experimentation and/or genetic propaganda:
Let's contemplate some rudimentary animal experimentation facts, with a little guidance from the researchers at Wellness of Nature:
* Every species of animal has a very singular cellular makeup and structure. Therefore, the testing of one species cannot lead to serviceable conclusions about another: "The fact is that animals react differently to different chemical substances, not only from human beings, but also from each other. Aspirin kills cats and penicillin kills guinea pigs. Yet, the same guinea pigs can safely eat strychnine-one of the deadliest poisons for humans but not for monkeys. Sheep can swallow enormous amounts of arsenic, once the murderers' favorite poison. Potassium cyanide, deadly to humans, is harmless to owls."
* "The truth is that animal experimentation has not cured a single human disease. The reason is simple: animal experimentation cannot produce any cures simply because it is based on a premise that is medically and scientifically false."
* "Animal research is not science and therefore it must be abolished. It is only through the use of truly scientific methods which are directly relevant to people (these include prevention and clinical studies of human patients) that we can hope to understand the causes of human diseases and find their cures."
* Even a cursory glance at the large number of pharmaceutical drugs pulled from the shelves by the Food and Drug Administration will offer a clue as to how ineffectual animal experimentation is. Ironically, it's the human who ends up as the "guinea pig."
* Universities, hospitals, the pharmaceutical and health care industries, politicians, lobbyists, private corporations, and celebrity dupes like Jerry Lewis and Christopher Reeve gain wealth and prestige thanks to animal experimentation.
* Animal experimentation is a scientific fraud but by shrewdly presenting the issue as one of choice-100 million animals per year must suffer and die to keep the world safe for Prozac, Ritalin, and Viagra-moral stances are effortlessly quashed by those seeking to justify the laboratory torture of animals. However, if it can be established that such experiments are not only morally vacant, but scientifically specious as well, the focus changes drastically.
Then we have the brave new world of gene therapy. "We are not the expression of our genes," declares Ruth Hubbard, professor emerita of biology at Harvard, "and knowing their location on the chromosomes, or their composition, does not enable someone to predict what we will look or be like." This simple reality is obscured by he almost-daily media reports on new gene findings. What follows naturally is the creation of predictive tests based upon these genetic discoveries. These tests are far more lucrative than any therapy that is only prescribed to someone who already "has" a condition. Predictive tests are for everyone-just like vaccinations. Yet another expensive medical procedure based upon flawed and corrupt science.
"It is a mistake to put too much weight on genes or DNA," Hubbard concludes. "Human beings are genetically a relatively homogeneous species. If Europeans were to disappear overnight, the genetic composition of the species would hardly change."
Yeah, but our health care system may improve.
The final leg of the curative journey, until the condition inevitably flares up again, begins when we feel a touch better. That's when our physician will dispense with dietary advice. And why not? Every 45 seconds, someone in the US has a heart attack. Every 55 seconds, an American dies from heart disease, a highly preventable illness and the nation's number one killer. Forty-five percent of all heart attacks occur in people under 65. Even more disturbing is the growing number of Americans (75,000 per year) under 40 who are now suffering heart attacks. Every seven seconds, an American is diagnosed with cancer, the number two killer. One out of three in the US will get cancer and one out of four will die from this highly preventable disease. Seventy-five percent of the carcinogens in our bodies come from eating animal products. Clearly, some nutritional counsel is in order.
Now that he has to spend less time worrying about getting sued, what will our doctor recommend? Almost without variation, he or she will push the tenets of the standard American diet, with all the deadly animal products, additives, chemicals, pesticides, and GMOs that go with it. Featured prominently will be the Food Guide Pyramid-complete with its carved-in-stone theology of 2-3 servings from the meat-poultry-fish-eggs group and 2-3 servings from the milk-yogurt-cheese group (make that 3-4 servings for children and pregnant women). Then again, what else should we expect when the typical American doctor sat through only FOUR classroom hours of nutrition during medical school?
"The human body has absolutely no requirement for animal flesh," says Michael Klaper, M.D. "Nobody has ever been found face-down 20 yards from Burger King because they couldn't get their Whopper in time."
The sampling offered above is but the tip of an iceberg immense enough to sink ten Titanics. I didn't get to the mercury in your teeth, the fluoride in your water, the over-reliance on surgery, the two million "dis-labeled" people locked in nursing homes against their will, HMOs, GMOs, the "war" on cancer, the HIV/AIDS cartel, and so much more. Still, I hope it's now clearer that the faults in the system lie much deeper than individual human error and the lawsuits they provoke. Even the most well-meaning and diligent physician is often unprepared to offer legitimate help within the structure she or he was trained in. The entire corporate medical configuration is defective and corrupt, and thereby anti-health. Until American health care consumers move toward awareness, self-education, and direct action, visiting your doctor (or restricted ER) will continue to be hazardous to your health.
Mickey Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet and an editor at Wide Angle. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org