Chapter 3: The Moral Climate of Health Care
Section. 6 Readings
When experienced doctors start writing books about the dangers to our health of Modern Medicine, we can be sure that there is much that is sick under the white coat.
"Confession of a Medical Heretic", by Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, a doctor with 25 years experience in modern medicine, is but one of many recent books exposing the medicopharmaceutical complex.
Bob Silverman reviews the expose in considerable detail.
"The Doctor, once an agent of cure, has become the agent of disease. By going too far and diffusing the power of the extreme on the mean, Modern Medicine has weakened and corrupted even the management of extreme cases." This startling affirmation was made by Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, a man who has worked as a practicing physician for 25 years. In his recent book, "Confessions of a Medical Heretic", Dr. Mendelsohn describes many of the conflicts of interest, greed, incompetence, corruption and other nightmares he came in contact with during his long medical career.
Reflecting upon his experience Dr. Mendelsohn notes, "l believe that despite the super technology and elite bedside manner that's supposed to make you feel as well cared for as an astronaut on the way to the moon, the greatest danger to your health is the doctor who practices Modern Medicine. I believe that Modern Medicine's treatments for diseases are seldom effective, and that they are often more dangerous than the diseases they're designed to treat. I believe that the dangers are compounded by the widespread usage of dangerous procedures for non-diseases. I believe that more than ninety percent of Modern Medicine could disappear from the face of the eart- doctors, hospitals, drugs and equipment- and the effect on our health would be immediate and beneficial."
Dr. Mendelsohn's startling hypothesis that people would be healthier if 90% of Modern Medicine were scrapped was confirmed. In Bogota, Columbia, Los Angeles County, Califonia and in Israel, when the doctors went on strike in these three different places, the death rate went down dramatically. During the month-long physicians' strike in lsrael in 1973, the doctors reduced their daily patient contact from 65,000 to 7,000. Guess what happened? "According to the Jerusalem Burial Society, the lsraeli death rate dropped fifty percent during that month. There had not been such a profound drop in mortality since the last doctors' strike twenty years before." The inescapable conclusion of Dr. Mendelsohn's book is that Modern Medicine is a gigantic and wealthy industry which destroys human life while trying to cure sickness. It harms us by its very excesses, its overmedicalization, its gadgetry. Elaborating on this central theme the veteran doctor comments, "Every minute of every day, Modern Medicine goes too far, because Modern Medicine prides itsef on going too far.
One gigantic medical factory is the Cleveland Clinic. In an article titled, "Cleveland's Marvelous Medical Factory", published in the Cleveland Clinic's own magazine, the enormity of their production figures are broken down.The article boasted of the Clinic's20accomplishments last year: 2,980 open-heart operations, 1.3 million laboratory tests, 73,320 electrocardiograms, 7,770 full-body xray scans, 210,378 other radiological studies and 24,368 surgical procedures."
Not one of these procedures has been proved to have the least bit to do with maintaining or restoring health. The article fails to boast or even mention that any people were even helped by this expensive extravagance. That's because the product of this factory is not health at all. So when you go to the doctor, you're seen not as a person who needs help with his or her health, but as a potential market for the medical factory's products." In separate chapters on diagnosis, drugs, surgery and hospitals, Dr. Mendelsohn spills the beans on the deadly effects of Modern Medicine.
Under Dangerous Diognosis we learn that studies show that about half of all lab tests are inaccurate and that the results often change when someone else does the interpreting. In one of his favorite studies Dr. Mendelsohn notes, "197 out of 200 people were 'cured' of their abnormalities simply by repeating the lab test." Indiscriminate use of x-rays is widespread. "Scientists have implicated X rays in the development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure and cataracts. Other studies have matched radiation to cancer, blood disorders and tumors of the central nervous system." Conflicts of interest also arrives in diagnosis as doctors o ften have financial interests in labs.
The Drug Trade
In "Miraculous Mayhem", Dr. Mendelsohn's chapter on drugs, we see another example of something, initially desirable and even miraculous, converted into its opposite, dangerous, unnecessary and mundane, by its own growth and abuse.. Early in his career penicillin was first developed. He comments on the miraculous result: "I gave intravenous penicillin every few hours to children who were suffering the agonizing symptoms of bacterial meningitis, and then watched miraculous changes occur hour by hour. Children who had been on the verge of death returned to consciousness and began to respond to stimuli within a few hours. A few days later these same children were back on their feet, almost ready to go home." The doctor recalls how he saw patients on their death bed suffering from lobar pneumonia, pack their bags and walk out of the hospital after penicillin was first introduced.
"I-and other doctors truly felt that we were witnessing and working miracles." "These drugs that were once extremely valuable are now extremely dangerous."
Doctors began to prescribe these drugs indiscriminately and Mendelsohn notes: "Many doctors prescribe penicillin for conditions as harmless as the common cold. These drugs can cause reactions ranging from skin rash, vomiting and diarrhea to fever and anaphylactic shock. Every year, from eight to ten million Americains go to a doctor when they have a cold. About half of them come away with a prescription for an antibiotic. Not only are these people duped into paying for something which has no effectiveness against their problem, but they're set up for the hazards of side effects and the risks of deadlier infections."
Sometimes several years pass before the full impact of the side effects become apparent. The hormone DES was widely prescribed for women in the 1950 as a fertility drug. "Twenty years later we would discover that DES causes vaginal cancer and genital abnormalities in children born to women receiving the drug during pregnancy. In 1959, about 500 children in Germany and 1000 elsewhere were born severely deformed because their mothers had taken thalidomide, a sleeping pill and tranquilizer, during the early weeks of pregnancy. In 1962 a cholesterol lowering drug, Tripanorol, was removed from the market when it was acknowledged that the drug caused numerous side effects, cataracts among them." Drug disasters like this are going on every day. Actually, the only apparatus that has grown stronger seems to be the machinery of keeping dangerous drugs moving from the factories through the hands of doctors into the mouths and bodies of unwary patients."
Mendelsohn further notes that 20,000 to 30,000 yearly deaths are attributed to adverse effects to drugs prescribed by doctors. Conservative estimates say that 5% of people in American and British hospitals are there because of adverse reaction to drugs." "One of the unwritten rules of modem medicine is always to write a prescription for a new drug quickly, before all of its side effects have come to the surface." Commenting on the fast gun approach of doctors to prescribing drugs, Mendelsohn notes: "There is a cozy and profitable relationship existing between the drug companies and doctors. The drug companies spend an average of $6,000 per year on each and every doctor in the United States for the purpose of getting them to use their drugs. Company 'detail' men, actually salesmen, build friendly, profitable relationships with the doctors on their route, wining and dining, doing favors, handing out samples of drugs. The sad fact is that most of the information reaching doctors about the uses and abuses of drugs comes from the drug companies, through the detail men and the advertising in medical journals. Since most of the clinical information from there, too, is highly suspect."
A commission of distinguished scientists, including four Nobel prize winners, found that clinical trials of new drugs were "in shambles." The Federal Drug Administraion of the U.S. in an investigation noted that a third of the tests had not been carried out at all. (1)
Many drugs have the same side effects as the conditions the drugs are meant to help. Valium is supposed to reduce anxiety, fatigue and depression. On reading the list of side effects we note that valium can cause anxiety, fatigue and depression.
Eli Lilly, founder of the drug company of that name once said that a drug without toxic effect was no drug at all. Every drug has to be approached with suspicion.
Conservative estimates-such as that made by a congressional subcommittee say that about 2.4 million operations performed every year are unnecessary, and that these operations cost $4 billion and 12,000 lives, or 5% of the quarter million deaths following or during surgery every year in the U.S. The independent Health Research Group says the number of unnecessary operations is more than 3=2 0million. And various studies have put the numbers of useless operations between eleven and thirty percent. My feeling is that somewhere around ninety percent of surgery is a waste of time, energy, money and life." "One study, for example, closely reviewed people who were recommended for surgery. Not only did they find that most of them needed no surgery, but fully half of them needed no medical treatment at all." Dr. Mendelsohn points out that the principle victims of unnecessary surgery are children and women. About a million tonsillectomies are done in the U.S. each year, "yet the operation has never demonstrated to do very much good", he notes. Hysterectomies seems to be a growth industry as well as annual totals are now approaching one million. Very few of them are necessary. In six New York hospitals, forty three percent of the hysterectomies reviewed were found to be unjustified. Women with abnormal bleeding from the uterus and abnormally heavy menstrual blood flow were given hysterectomies even though other treatments or no treatment at all- would have likely worked just as well."
Obstetricians are now rapidly turning the natural process of childbirth into a surgical procedure. "Layer upon layer of 'treatment' buries the experience under the mantle of sickness, as each layer requires another layer to compensate for its adverse effe cts. Strangely enough, you can always count on doctors to take credit for the compensations, but not for the medical disasters that made the compensation necessary in the first place."
More and more deliveries are being scheduled to the doctor's convenience. "In many hospitals the induced 'nine-to-five' delivery has become the rule." Caesarians are mushrooming. I can remember when if a hospital's incidence of Caeserain deliveries went above four or five percent, there was a full scale investigation. The present level is around twenty-five percent. There are no investigations at all. And in some hospitals the rate is pushing 50 percent." The profit motive, not the human motive, explains the large amount of unnecessary surgery. Mendelsohn observes: "There's no doubt that if you eliminated all unnecessary surgery, most surgeans would go out of business. In prepaid group practices where surgeons are paid a steady salary not tied to how many operations they perform, hysterectomies and tonsillectomies occur only about one-third as in fee-for-service situations." Often operations are performed to meet the quotas of the recent medical graduates. On three separate occasions Mendelsohn used his influence to reduce unnecessary operations. Once he eliminated a question on a routine medical examination form. The number of tonsillectomies went down. "As you might expect, I soon got a call from the chairman of the ear, nose and throat department: I was threatening his teaching program."
The Temple of Doom
After having spent the last 25 years of his life on the staff of hospitals, Dr. Mendelsohn refers to them as "Temples of Doom." He begins: "A hospital is like a war. You should try to stay out of it. And if you get in it you should take along as many allies as possible and get out as soon as you can. For the amount of money the average hospital stay costs, you could spend an equal length of time at just about any resort in the world, transportation included. For the hospital is the Temple of the Church of Modem Medicine, and thus one of the most dangerous places on earth."
Elaborating on the perils of hospitals Mendelsohn notes: "Overall, your chances of getting an infection in the hospital are about one in twenty. That's a conservative estimate. Half of the infections in hospitals are caused by contaminated medical devices such as catheters and intravenous equipment. Before the explosion in the use of these devices around 1965,20device-related infections were virtually non-existent. About 15,000 people die from hospital acquired infections every year.
"In my experience, a one in twenty risk would have to be the base line risk representing the minimum danger of infection. I've seen epidemics spread through hospitals so fast that everyone had to be sent home. Pediatric wards and newborn nurseries are the most vulnerable to spreading infections." Hospitals are contaminated with more than germs. Remember, since hospitals are the temples of Modem Medicine all the dangerous chemicals that doctors love to use are in plentiful supply. With all these drugs at their disposal, doctors are bound to use them. And they do. Patients in the hospital receive an average of twelve different drugs. But even if you're not drugged to death or disability there are other chemicals that are floating around that can make your stay less than healthy. In the first place, your doctor may not be using drugs, but everyone else's doctor is. Poisonous solvents used in laboratories and cleaning facilities, flammable chemicals, and radioactive wastes all threaten you with contamination."
Noting even more dangers of hospitals, the veteran doctor notes: "Hospitals are virtual models of ineptitude. There are so many simple mistakes-mistakes in which someone has two or three choices and chooses wrong- that you must feel extremely apprehensive when you stare to contemplate all the opportunities for co mplex errors! "Everything gets mixed up in hospitals -including patients. My brother went to the hospital for a hernia operation many years ago. He was scheduled for surgery at 11 A.M. I went up to his room at 9.3O but he wasn't there. I ran down to the operating room, and sure enough, there he was. They'd taken him instead of another patient. The only reason he escaped was that the other patient was supposed to get a hysterectomy.
Dr. Mendelsohn refers to studies which indicate widespread malnutrition in hospitals. "lf the drugs, the germs, the surgery, the chemicals or the accidents dont get you, you still stand a good chances of starving to death." A study carried out on surgery patients in a large Boston hospital by Dr. Georges Blackburn noted that half the patients were severely malnourished. They were malnourished enough to threaten their recovery and lengthen their stay in the hospital. Commenting on this startling revelation Mendelsohn notes: "The results of this study are by no means uncommon. Many studies have since discovered malnutrition in anywhere from twenty-five to fifty percent of patients in American and British hospitals. And Dr. George Blackburn has since stated that malnutrition is one of the most common causes of death among old people in hospitals."
The Devils Priest
Mendelsohn, who has spent most of his life among doctors, describes the M.D.s in the following fashion... "Doctors turn out to be dishonest, corrupt, unethical, sick, poorly educated, and downright stupid more often than the rest of society. When I meet a doctor, I generally figure I'm meeting a person who is narrow-minded, prejudiced, and fairly incapable of reasoning and deliberation. Few of the doctors I meet prove my prediction wrong."
Corruption, particularly at the highest levels, is rampant among doctors. Mendelsohn informs the reader that the deans of ths Yale and Harvard Schools of Medicine acted as paid consultants to the Squibb Corporation at the same time they were trying to persuade the Food and Drug Administration to lift the ban on Mysteclin, one of Squibb's biggest moneymakers. Later, the Harvard dean, Dr. Robert Ebert, became a paid director of Squibb.
"Fraud in scientific research is commonplace. The Food and Drug Administration has uncovered such niceties as overdosing and under dosing of patients, fabrication of records and drug dumping when they investigate experimental drug trials. Of course, in these instances, doctors working for drug companies have as their goal producing results that will convince the FDA to approve the drug."
One of the crudest examples of research fraud occurred at the Sloan-Kettering institute in New York. (Both Sloan and Kettering were helmsmen at General Motors and Alfred Sloan masterminded the destruction of the streetcar systems in 45 U.S. cities during his lengthy presidency of that automobile company), investigator Dr. William Summerlin admitted painting mice to make them look though successful skin grafts had been done.
Doctors as a group seem to be sicker than the rest of society. Conservative counts peg the number of psychiatrically disturbed physicians in the U.S. at 17,000 or one in twenty the number of alcoholics at more than 30,000 and the number of narcotic addicts at 3,500 or one percent. A thirty-year study comparing doctors with professional of similar socio-economic and intellectual status found that by the end of the study nearly half the doctors were divorced or unhappily married, more than a third used drugs such as amphetamines, barbiturates or other narcotics and a third had suffered emotional problems severe enough to require at least ten trips to a psychiatrist. The control group of non-doctors didn't fare nearly as badly.
Mendelsohn notes that doctors are part of the upper classes and that's where their sympathies lie. "They view themselves as the true elite class in society. The doctor's lifestyle and professional behavior encourage autocratic thinking, so his conservative politics and economics are predictable. Most doctors are white, male and rich, hardly in a position to relate effectively with the poor, the nonwhite and females."
Education of Doctors
"The admission tests and policies of medical schools virtually guarantee that the students who get in will make poor doctors. The quantitative tests, the Medical College Admission Test, and the reliance on grade point averages funnel through a certain type of personality who is unable and unwilling to communicate with people." "Medical school does its best to turn smart students stupid, honest students corrupt and healthy students sick. It isn't very hard to turn a smart student into a stupid one. First of all, the admissions people make sure the professors will get weak-willed, authority-abiding students to work on. Then they give them a curiculum that is absolutely meaningless as far as healing or health are concerned."
Doctors generally cover up the errors, even fatal ones, of other doctors. ln New Mexico a surgeon tied off the wrong duct in a gall bladde r operation and the patient died. Although the error was discovered at autopsy, the doctor was not disciplined. Apparently, he wasn't taught the right way to do the operation, because a few months later he performed it again-wrong and another patient died. Again, no punishment and no surgery lesson. Only after the doctor performed the operation a third time and killed another person was there an investigation resulting in the loss of his license."
Perhaps some readers will think that Dr. Mendelsohn is some kind of weird malcontentwho vented his spleen because he failed in the medical world. Well that's not the case. Dr. Mendelsohn is the Chairman of the Medical Licensing Committee of the State of Illinois, Associate Professor of Preventative Medicine and Community Health in the School of Medicine of the University of lllinois and the recipient of numerous awards for excellence in medicine and medical instruction. That a doctor with his experience and his credentials could write "Confessions of a Medical Heretic" indicates that much of modem medicine is a threat to our health.
Dr. Serge Mongeau is a Québec doctor, a medical heretic and author who holds opinions very similar to Dr. Mendelsohn's. He has written several books on the subjects of health and medicine, among them "Survivre aux soins Médi caux" and "Adieu Médecine, Bonjour Santé". Mongeau notes: "lt is the whole medical system that is on the wrong track and has become counter productive. Latrogenesis-illnesses caused by medical attention-have become epidemic. The stubborness of the medical profession in denying the evidence and in refusing to take measures to correct the situation perpetuate the danger."
Modem Medicine's horrors are made worse by it also being a monopoly. We must pay money to "illegal" alternative therapists like midwives, homeopaths, rebirthers, and countless others while the counter productive official medicine is massively subsidized. An immediate end to the monopoly of the Quebec Order of Doctors and the recognition of the various alternative health practitioners would give the people a free choice of what type of health care they want.
Modern Medicine: It's only Another Business
While thousands of people get sick or die from iatrogenic illnesses, the medico-industrial complex becomes stronger and stronger. Former U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, called it the second most powerful interest group in the United States. Sickness expenses now rival military and road building expenses for the share of the national budgets. The July edition of Le Monde Diplomatique notes that medical capitalism is a growth industry in the United States and lists hospital chains and drug companies that have recently vastly increased their values on the stock market.
That's the contradiction. Your health versus their profits. Take a deep breath and for your own health, say: "Goodby Doctor".
Confessions of a Medical Heretic, Roberet S. Mendelsohn, M.D. Warner Books, New-york.
Survivre aux soins Médicaux, Dr.Serge Mongeau, Québec/Amérique, Montréal.
Adieu Médecine, Bonjour Santé, Dr. Serge Mongeau, Québec/Amérique, Montréal.
Medical Nemesis, ivan Illich, Pantheon Press.
(1): Confessions of a Medical Heretic, P. 74
© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2002. All Rights reserved.
Web Surfer's Caveat: These are class notes, intended to comment on readings and amplify class discussion. They should be read as such. They are not intended for publication or general distribution.
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