Select Page

Today’s Wall Street Journal had yet another story by a disillusioned doctor: Why doctors are sick of their profession

Jauhar actually offers a balanced view. He points out that doctors were warned they would kill the goose that laid the golden eggs; many doctors still perform unnecessary surgery. I am healthy and rarely see doctors, yet when I had a small ovarian cyst, a doctor tried to persuade me to undergo a complete hysterectomy! I switched doctors and had an outpatient procedure in just a few hours.

The irony is that managed care often doesn’t prevent unnecessary or wasteful treatment. The term “preventive care” should be replaced with “risk reduction medicine.” Much of a primary care doctor’s work involves screenings of perfectly healthy, asymptomatic people that cannot be justified by research findings.

Doctors are still trained to memorize molecular structures but they need courses in statistics and decision making. Recently the WSJ published a review by a cardiologist who insisted that deaths from heart disease were down by 60%. I looked up the numbers: the reduction was 172/100,000 and that doesn’t account for things like errors in coding causes of death.

And while doctors complain bitterly about lack of respect, many of them persist in making elderly patients (and those close to end of life) suffer with unnecessary treatment. Just read any list of comments in a NYT article. I’ve heard first-hand accounts of 90-year-olds given colonoscopies, paid by Medicare; a doctor writes about aging Alzheimer’s patients getting painful needle tests for diabetes, ordered by a doctor, who can’t be stopped. yet few insurance companies give them what they need – massage, good food and privacy. I’ve heard even more horror stories of doctors who disregard DNR orders and who think they’re doing a service by keeping someone alive for a meaningless, drugged-up existence in a nursing home.

Finally, doctors have limited accountability. It is very, very hard to sue a doctor. Doctors make claims on their websites (and in practice) without disclaimers and disclosures of conflict of interest. Eye doctors actually place ads in their office magazines (“Want great vision? Talk to us about …”) without warning that these procedures do not always turn out well and sometimes make vision worse.