September 10, 2005

I hate to say it, but I am getting more and more discouraged with modern healthcare today.  The more people I talk with, I hear too many things that make me just shake my head.  Yes, it’s rant time again.

I grew up at a time when the doctor actually would occasionally make a house call.  They didn’t have all the fancy equipment they do today, and they didn’t have all the wonder drugs.  They poked and prodded, and used common sense to diagnose problems. 

Today, and especially in Florida, one is lucky if a complete physical is more than listening to the heart and lungs, and seeing if one can read an eye chart.  Just so you know I’m not kidding, that was my first complete physical when we moved here nine years ago.  I remember one doctor had this page up on the wall of their exam room that talked about how important it was for a doctor to look at the feet during a physical.  Never mind that the patient never got undressed.  I can understand with some of us, but doctors don’t want to see their patients naked anymore.  

The diagnostic equipment today is something out of science fiction.  They can look through you and photograph your muscles and ligaments using simple, non harmful things like magnets.  Yet the doctors are becoming so dependent on this equipment that they don’t touch people anymore.  (With all his technical equipment, Dr. McCoy always confirmed what the instruments told him by touching.  Of course Dr. Crusher was more like doctors today.  She believed her instruments and hardly ever laid a hand on a patient.). 

The wonder drugs today do miraculous things, but we have become too reliant on them.  The scary part about the drugs is that they work on the nervous system, telling it what it should and should not feel.  We get drugs out there, and then find out 20 years later that something begins to show up that could not have been seen in the trials that they run.  (One site on the web blames a popular drug for Restless Leg Syndrome, something I suffer from.  Obviously, there is no hard evidence, but who knows, they might be right.) 

We’re getting a whole lot of new diseases, and we don’t know where they come from, or what causes them.  The only way we treat them is to throw drugs at them.  Fibromyalgia is a good one.  A person has pain, and the amount and length differ, but we don’t know what causes it.  (John Barnes, who developed Myofascial Release, claims it is constricted fascia, connective tissue, that causes it.  He also says that MFR can be a cure.)  But what doctors do with Fibromyalgia is give a person drugs, drugs that alter the nervous system, and hopefully take away the pain. 

I have a friend that attends Bastyr University in Seattle.  She was given a subject that had been diagnosed with ‘Chronic Pain Syndrome’.  Now let’s think about this.  Chronic means constant.  Syndrome is a concurrence of symptoms, basically a pattern.  So basically, this patient had pain all of the time.  Duh.  So when the doctors say ‘Chronic Pain Syndrome’, they mean “we don’t know what the hell it is, but he hurts a lot.”  Gee, must be a prime candidate for more drugs. 

The other thing is that I hear doctors constantly complaining about the cost of their malpractice insurance, and that is causing the cost of healthcare to rise.  This is true, but the mistakes made by doctors are increasing, and unfortunately, they’re in a profession that does not tolerate mistakes.  When I was a computer programmer, I could make mistakes.  So could a car mechanic.  But when a doctor makes a mistake, people all too often die. 

There was an article in a local paper recently that told the story of a girl that was jet skiing in the river that bisects Jacksonville.  As she got out of the water, she cut her ankle a tiny bit.  The next day, it was swollen and she was feeling very badly.  She was taken to one of the local hospitals.  There, they looked at her, took  her vitals, then put her out in the waiting room to wait.  A couple hours later when her mother got there, she was still in the waiting room.  The people at the emergency room told the mother that there was nothing wrong with her daughter, and that she was faking it.  They told her she was a good actress.  The mother, with the help of people there, got her daughter into her car (since the people at 911 refused to send an ambulance to pick up someone at one hospital and take them to another) and took her to another hospital.  There, they admitted her, and gave her drugs, but she just got worse.  It reached the point where the doctors went in to try to remove the some of the diseased tissue in her leg and found she had the flesh eating virus.  (She had contracted it from the water in the river through the tiny cut she had.  I’m not getting in any water that’s not in my bathtub anymore.)  She died a couple days later. 

The obvious sad part is that this person died.  The unforgivable part is how she was treated by the medical staff of the first hospital.  Unfortunately, this is not the exception.  This seems to be the rule. 

The insurance companies and HMOs will spend tons of money if something catastrophic happens, and a patient is near death.  But they are lax on paying for preventative medicine.  My insurance company won’t pay for urinalysis.  You know how you find out if one is diabetic, or inclined to be?  You check a urine sample. 

I’m not surprised that people are starting to look for something else, like alternative therapies.  The bad thing is that I’m afraid things will break more before they get fixed.  But then again, the number of alternative therapy practitioners are growing.  I guess that’s one good thing.