Beware The Doctors

Aquarian Weekly 1/19/05 REALITY CHECK


“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” – William Shakespeare King Henry VI, Part II, (Act IV), Scene 2

Beware The DoctorsDoctors really don’t know what they’re doing.

Take one aside at a mixer after his or her third Manhattan and ask. They’ll tell you. And when you’ve talked to enough of them off the record it will hit you: No one has a clue how you tick or what keeps you ticking. It’s a crapshoot, like predicting the weather or prognosticating the Oscars. My mother calls it “the educated guess.” Call it what you will, it’s wacky science and you’re the lab rat.

That being established, no matter the circumstance or political rhetoric, should there be any legislation passed that would diminish the amount or severity of liability placed upon doctors, hospitals, drug companies et al, if these guesses go awry. Otherwise what is now a free-for-all in medicinal darts will turn into something out of an Aldous Huxley novel.

What the 109th congress will now debate, along with the desperately needed – but doomed to oblivion – Social Security reform, the fate-sealing eternal tax cut, what to do about the gluttonous 23% increase of federal spending the past three years, and more nonsense about adding bigoted amendments, is the extent of your right to protect yourself from the tyranny of medicine.

By which I mean for instance a maddening expansion of pharmaceuticals consumed by Americans in the last decade. This alarms many pundits. I am not one of them. If people need to be medicated to stay the fuck off towers with an automatic weapon, I’m all for it. Most of us are nuts. This is a fact. Medicine has curtailed the results of this; a cause for celebration, not harangue. The self-righteous louts who deride the medicated are delusional, which is our most heinous social malady. But, alas, there is no drug to assuage the delusional, unless you count religion. I do not.

Of course there is always the odd prescription of mood-altering drugs to depressed teenagers with suicidal tendencies that sort of-kind of might cause an increase in depression and suicidal tendencies or the sedation of rambunctious toddlers with some nifty narcotic to zombie them up. But I’m not sure what level of outrage this rouses in the grand collective, so I’ll call it an epidemic for lack of a sane definition.

They can tort reform all over the map and you’ll still pay through the nose with less or no rights in case all this guesswork lands you in a wheelchair or worse.

However, anyone who has been to a physician in the past few years knows well of what I broach. And I’m not talking about massive screw-ups like people dying on operating tables or given a lethal dose of something or a frighteningly bad diagnosis that leaves them crippled or dead. It’s the quick check-up to unnecessary craziness that needs to be accounted for.

To wit; I was diagnosed with high cholesterol two summers ago. My doctor could not whip out the samples of Lipitor fast enough. He was busy cranking out a handy prescription when I suggested exercise and diet. Soon after the obligatory derisive chortle, I demanded I have three months to lower the “bad” cholesterol naturally. I did. Lipitor and my doctor lost out.

Now assuming the best-case scenario, which doesn’t have my doctor in cahoots with a massive pharmaceutical company, and he isn’t a lazy ass, he was likely guessing that drugs were best for me. I disagreed. I guess I lucked out.

But if you take this story and ratchet it up considerably to bring in larger physical problems, you might get the picture.

The government wants you to believe that lawyers and frivolous damage claims are ruining the medical profession, keeping you from the best care, and jacking up the cost of health care in general. This is bullshit, like most of what this government, or any government tells you. The fact is the toothpaste is out of the tube when it comes to health costs. They can tort reform all over the map and you’ll still pay through the nose with less or no rights in case all this guesswork lands you in a wheelchair or worse.

Bash lawyers all you want. It’s fun. I do it in weaker moments. Bashing attorneys is the comedic equivalent of the fart joke. It never fails to get a laugh. It’s cheap and it always works. But when you are damaged goods, you had better get a good one or you will be one of the forgotten.

Many malpractice lawsuits are out of control, but making laws to curtail or put restrictions on the amount and severity of legal recourse is how this country deals with aberrations of any kind; throw the baby out with the bathwater. The federal government, the FBI and the CIA can’t protect us, so chuck civil rights. Lunatic children shoot up the schools, outlaw guns and video games. Drug problem? Jail everyone. Homeless problem? Make them disappear.

Why should the American people give up the right to sue lousy doctors or negligent hospitals just because the denizens of our court system cannot tell the difference between a frivolous lawsuit and a legitimate claim? We have regulated ourselves silly. So much so, that many of us crave some form of chemical to keep us from facing the truth.

And what is the truth?

The AMA and huge Pharmaceutical corporations have stronger lobbies in Washington than you and me. They dump tons of money into campaigns. Those campaigns find themselves in chairs in congress and they make the laws. We eat shit.

This is how it works.

Shakespeare knew this. That’s why the above quote, often misused to mock the law profession by those who still think Randy Newman hates short people and we didn’t steal Texas, is really about the first sign of abuse of power. A character that goes by the name of Dick the Butcher, whom the author describes as “the head of an army of rabble and a demagogue pandering to the ignorant” and who plans on overthrowing the government, utters it.

It is a warning about letting things run smoother by giving up the right to have a voice if you become a casualty.

Consider this another, if not less literary, warning.

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