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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for February, 2010

The Fat is on the Fire

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

To use a venerable cliché ––– ” the fat is on the fire “––– and it is likely we’ll all get burned.
The president has published his own healthcare bill (about time, huh?). But it basically looks like an amalgam of the Senate and House bills, both of which are monstrosities. On February 25th, Obama meets with representatives of the Republicans and Democrats in an effort to get support for his bill (the Republicans are in a peculiar position––– they have to meet since the president requested it––– but it looks like they are being faced with a yea or nay on a bill they cannot support and with no opening available to get their alternative plans discussed)
If the meeting ends without bipartisan support for the Obama bill, the Democrats and the president will try to ram it through both houses of Congress without Republican support using a bag full of political chicanery. It’s a trillion dollar bill on top of the trillion dollar deficits we already have! The American people will be bankrupt!
The impact on our lives, our children’s lives, and our stability as a nation is about to “go down the tubes ” because of the political hubris of the president and congressional Democrats. We can only hope they fail at their Alice in Wonderland tea party on the 25th.

A Tide of New Medical Schools?

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

There are nearly two dozen medical schools that have just opened or might open across the country, the most since the big increase in the 1960s and ’70s. During the subsequent two decades, only one new medical school was established.

These new schools will allegedly address certain issues in American medicine that have been growing for a quarter century. Many students went to offshore medical schools or gave up the idea of medicine as a career when they could not get into U.S. Medical schools, while at the same time, American hospitals were recruiting foreign trained and foreign born physicians into residency programs.

These new schools are also a market response to a number of demographic, political and social issues: a growing population; the aging of the baby boom generation; the likely up-coming retirement of as many as a third of practicing doctors; and the expectation that changes in health care policy will bring millions of newly insured patients into the American health care system.

At present, there are 125 allopathic medical schools and 26 osteopathic medical schools. If all these new schools actually open, they would increase the number of medical schools by up to 18%, while at the same time, existing schools will likely expand their enrollments.

Is this “good” or “bad?” Probably a little of both. There will be a shortage of physicians of all kinds in the next couple of decades, but the quality of some these new physicians might be suspect.

So, stay tuned. After all, it’s only your health care on the line.

Doctors Protest

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

I found this article on the HUMAN EVENTS Web site, www.humanevents.com. It is a good picture of where a significant number of physicians stand vis-a-vis the Senate and House health care “reform” bills, and the organization to which many are flocking in an effort to block those bills.

Docs 4 Patient Care — Time for a New Look for Doctors
by  Hal Scherz, M.D.

When healthcare became the centerpiece of the Obama legislative agenda in early 2009, it appeared that the government takeover of 1/6 of our economy was imminent. A big part of the reason for optimism on the part of the Democrat leadership was the absence of any meaningful resistance. A frequent question posed by the opponents of this policy was where are the doctors in this debate?


The doctors were conspicuously absent and this was the problem. Their absence had led many to conclude that physicians didnt have an opinion on this subject, or worse, were in agreement with this scheme. The truth was quite the opposite. Doctors were frustrated, angry and concerned about the future of their profession and the fate of their patients. There was a palpable need for doctors to have a voice in this debate because up until this point, it was nonexistent.

It was assumed that the American Medical Association (AMA) provided the platform for doctors to air their views. It came as a shock to most people when it was revealed that this was not the case, and in fact, only 17% of all doctors were members. To compound the problem, the AMA betrayed the very people that it was ostensibly meant to represent. This was to protect its $100M medical coding franchise that the federal government grants the AMA as the basis by which doctors and hospitals get  paid by insurance companies and the federal government — a major incentive for the group to endorse state-run medicine.

Docs 4 Patient Care attempted to fill this vacuum. This doctor run organization was born in Atlanta, Georgia in late May 2009 with 40 concerned individuals coming together with a simple concept; to give physicians a platform to broadcast their views, to inform the public and their patients what was really happening in Washington, and to empower them to do something about it. Not quite 9 months and 3000 doctors later, this group has members in every state in the US. It has gone from a regional group with a mission to stop the government takeover of healthcare, to a national group determined to do more. The window of opportunity has been cracked open and now there is a real chance to knock the AMA off its perch to provide real leadership and representation to the American doctors.

The majority of doctors want to see changes in healthcare. This means responsible reform. The system requires remodeling, not demolition. Patients are tired of the partisan politics and want the specific problems addressed, not using the identification of these problems as an excuse to do something far more insidious. We at Docs 4 Patient Care would agree. Doctors dont take care of Democrats or Republicans. We take care of patients, and they deserve something better from Washington than what they have receiving.

We are determined to grow our organization so that physicians have a voice in the media, in Congress and with insurance companies. We see no reason why with this platform, we couldnt see D4PC grow to 50,000 doctors by the end of the year. We also need the help of non physicians and invite them to join us on this quest as affiliate members. Their concerns as patients are important to us and we are committed to keep their needs at the heart of everything that we do.

Docs 4 Patient Care has not forgotten why the group was created; to prevent the government takeover of healthcare. This possibility is still very real and if we have learned anything during this debate, those who are in power in Washington are capable of doing anything to make their dream a reality. The longer this goes on without resolution, the more desperate and reckless they become. We will continue to advocate for a responsible resolution which is based on a patient centered, market driven approach where doctors and patients remain unencumbered in medical decision making. The solutions should not be political or ideological. Docs 4 Patient Care believes that it is not a matter of right or left; its about right or wrong.

Hal Scherz, MD, is a pediatric urological surgeon at Georgia Urology and Childrens Health Care of Atlanta, serves on the faculty of Emory University Medical School and president and cofounder of Docs4PatientCare.

Scientific Verity

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

On January 26th, 2010 the prestigious British medical journal, Lancet retracted a 1998 article by Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues that proported to show a link between vaccines and autism.  The study claimed that 12 children with chronic intestinal disorders but with previous normal early development, demonstrated severe behavioral and intellectual deterioration that suggested autism within days after the inoculation with the measles/ mumps/ rubella (MMR) vaccine.
This article caused terrible epidemiological damage by strongly suggesting that many cases of autism were caused by the MMR vaccine.  Many families in Europe and the United States refused to allow their children to be vaccinated after the Lancet article received worldwide publicity.  Newspapers, magazines, TV and radio broadcasts touted the article and stoked the fears of parents.  This led to failure to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of children leading to epidemics of measles, mumps, and rubella, especially the former
Lancet’s retraction of the article occurred less than one week after the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council ruled that in conducting his study, Wakefield acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” by failing to disclose his extreme financial conflicts of interest and “callous disregard” for his patients by subjecting them to unnecessary invasive procedures.
How the editors of Lancet could have allowed the publication of such a momentous challenge to accepted epidemiologic practice based on only 12 subjects is beyond understanding.  Lancet actually ignored warning signs of trouble with this article when 10 of the original 12 authors withdrew their names from the paper, the fact that numerous studies by other researchers in the autism field failed to reproduce Wakefield’s findings, and the outrage of so many in the scientific community.
This storm buffeting Lancet is only one of many that have confounded the scientific community.  Some papers arriving in journal offices are flawed because of poor methodology, inept statistical analysis, and self-serving data analysis and conclusions.  These flaws should be picked up by reviewers and editors with those papers rejected.  However, in some cases papers are accepted and touted out of political conviction, especially when the paper has implications for public policy.
My friend, David Woods, an editor himself, commenting on these matters likes to quote the humorist and physician, Michael O’Donnell in “A Skeptics Medical Dictionary “:           ” Scientific paper ––– Piece of prose that serves many purposes save for that which it claims to exist ––– the passing on of information . . . and which often serves the needs of its authors above the needs of its readers.”

Summer Yearnings

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

The second largest snowstorm in recorded Philadelphia history, about 28 inches, passed through the area on February 5th and 6th.  Today, February 7th, the sun is shining down on a ” Winter Wonderland of snow.” Another blast is said to be coming on the evening of February 9th and is scheduled to plaster the region again with a foot of snow.

Oh, global warming where art thou?

William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved