Can the American medical system get any worse?

Costs are outrageous, and all the “reforms” only seem to make matters worse. Doctors seem to have a complete disregard for their patients, routinely keeping them waiting endlessly, and generally treating them with contempt.

There’s plenty of outrage with lawyers and their abuse of the legal system, but in many ways doctors are worse. At least lawyers have nice offices and don’t overbook – doctors make just as much, or more, money, and yet spend very little on the comfort of their patients. After you’re kept waiting for 45 minutes, you’ll be ushered into a small uncomfortable room, and told to put on a cheap robe. You’ll need to repeat everything 3 times; once on a form, the same information to a nurse, and yet again to the doctor.

Doctors generally give so little thought to the comfort of the patient that despite the fact that patients are almost always asked to disrobe to some degree, there is almost never a place to actually put your clothes – this is not a big deal, but emblematic of how little thought is given to the patient as doctors focus entirely on making sure they will get paid.

When the doctor finally deigns to see you, he or she will rush through the evaluation, and then prescribe very expensive tests or procedures you don’t actually need but that pay big fees to the medical practice. How do they get away with all this? Because in most cases the system has been so socialized that there is no relationship between who is paying the bill and who is receiving the treatment.


Some highlights of a recent article on the US medical system:

The United States spends roughly twice as much per capita as most of the nations of Western Europe, whose citizens on average outlive us by a couple of years.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic went through 10 years of the New England Journal of Medicine, from 2001 through 2010. Of the established tests and procedures reevaluated in studies in the journal, 40 percent were found to be worthless.

US Institute of Medicine – $210 billion annually on procedures of no value

The detection and treatment of prostate cancer in men is a particular outrage. There have been major studies showing that mortality rates for men who have been treated for prostate cancer are no lower than for groups that have not been treated, in large part because prostate cancer can be benign – meaning you can have it but die from something else. Half of elderly men have signs of prostate cancer, but only 3% will die from it. Yet the side effects of treatment are brutal including incontinence and impotence.

As Urologist Dr. Paul Schellhammer says,”There is a kind of prostate cancer that can be cured but does not need to be, there is a kind of prostate cancer that needs to be cured but cannot. We all hope there is a kind of prostate cancer that needs to be cured and can be cured.” The general math is this: for every man who is (possibly) saved by prostate cancer treatment, 50 are treated needlessly. Which means that thousands upon thousands of men have gone through the misery of loss of bladder control and impotence to save, at most, a few men. And, of course, to enrich doctors.

For an example of how truly insensitive doctors are to outcomes, we give you Dr. Robert Mordkin, chief of urology at Virginia Hospital Center, from an interview with Men’s Journal:

“His clinical sense is that, after a skillfully done surgery, most men will eventually regain their bladder control. Sex is a different story. The penis will be less responsive, though with the help of ED drugs, intercourse, he says, is often possible.”

“His clinical sense” – in spite of the actual data. After a “skillfully” done surgery. What about all the other surgeries? “Most” men will “eventually” regain their bladder control. What about the ones who don’t? With the help of drugs like Viagra – another cash cow for the medical industry – sex is “often” possible.

You like those odds?

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