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From Hippocrates to Hypocrisy
Are patients taking care of the doctors and the
hospitals today instead of the other way around?
What ails us?
Plain and simple, it’s the need for profit in medicine and the way our society treats health care as a commodity.
In a for-profit system, hospitals (including non-profit ones) refuse to treat patients who don't have health insurance or well-paid jobs. Thousands of people are turned away by emergency rooms because they are uninsured or inadequately covered. If it’s a life-and-death situation, patients receive bare-bones care and are sent home with an inflated bill.
Health industry consultant James C. Capretta writes in his article “What’s Ailing Health Care?” that everyone loses under a for-profit system:
“Costs continue to escalate rapidly, putting stress on family and government budgets. Workers worry about how changing jobs will affect their health insurance coverage. Bureaucratic bungling plagues health care delivery. Lack of an electronic infrastructure leads to stacks of paperwork and confused billing arrangements — and sometimes deadly mistakes. The American hospital is among the most dangerous places for a healthy person to be.”
Warfare or health care?
The American Friends Service Committee reports that the money spent on one day of the Iraqi war could buy health care for 423,529 children (http://www.afsc.org/cost).
Meanwhile, President Bush vetoed the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) on October 3, denying care to millions of needy kids as a self-proclaimed “pro-life” advocate.
(Visit http://www.familiesusa.org/assets/pdfs/SCHIP-101.pdf) to learn more about the bill.)
At the same time, the president enjoys virtually free health care while denying it to others in need. According to the Associated Press, Bush executed his veto “behind closed doors without any fanfare or news coverage.” Yet the majority of our representatives in the House and the Senate, both Republican and Democrat, were in favor of the bill.
(Sign our petition urging Congress to override his veto or call 1-866-544-7573 and ask to be connected to Rep. Rick Renzi. Tell him that, as the father of nine kids himself, he should be looking out for other people's children too.)
The new emperors
This means that the biggest obstacle to health-care reform centers on one individual – George W. Bush – who holds the fate of 300 million Americans in one hand with one swill of his pen and the interests of the health profiteers in the other.
Such power and arrogance does not reflect democratic principles. It smatters of the divine right of kings that plagued civilizations for centuries. Only the players and the costumes have changed.
The NRA lobby: ruthless and relentless
The National Restaurant Association ranks right behind Bush among those working feverishly to stop health-care reform. Why do restaurants have so much at stake? They represent the largest private sector employer in the nation, with more than 12 million workers – most of whom earn some of the lowest income, including the appalling sub-minimum wage.
Restaurant emperors who already thrive off low payrolls pour millions into their lobbying campaigns to avoid having to insure such a large working section of the population.
In the early 1990s, the NRA contributed nearly $1 million toward a lobbying campaign designed to squash Hilary Clinton’s proposed universal health-care program. Again, wealth and power ruled over conscience as it does with our president.
If the NRA put its lobbying millions behind HR676, it would ensure that the burden to provide health care for food industry workers was permanently lifted off industry shoulders.
Big Pharma: How much is enough?
Then there are the modern-day carpetbaggers – the drug companies.
In 2004, pharmaceutical czar Sidney Taurel, CEO of Eli Lilly, earned $12.5 million while fellow drug lord Raymond Gilmartin, CEO of Merck, made a paltry $5.9 million.
Meanwhile, seniors on fixed incomes can’t afford the staggering costs of their medications and millions of men pay an obscene $12 for every Viagra pill that carries the risk of heart attack, stroke and even vision loss.
In his book As Sick as It Gets – The Reality of Health Care in America (Olin Frederick Inc., 2002), author Rudolph Mueller, M.D., a health-care activist, states that the pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable business in the U.S., with $36 billion in revenues earned in 2002 alone.
Americans spend more than $20 billion on prescription drugs each year
but many say they still cannot afford their medications.
Since then, that figure has significantly multiplied, especially with the introduction of new high-priced drugs that lure Americans with their perennial ads spread across every TV network. Peruse any major national magazine – especially mass market consumer and women’s publications – and you’ll discover a glut of pharmaceutical ads.
Drugs for insomnia, depression, migraines, anxiety and, of course, the ubiquitous impotency problem. Could it be that America’s broken health-care system cultivates many of these maladies in its citizens who are already overstressed?
To make matters worse, some reports claim that the normal ranges for various lab tests, such as cholesterol levels, have changed to promote the sale of drugs like Lipitor. They charge that the industry has significantly lowered the safe range for high cholesterol so that doctors will write more prescriptions.
At the dawn of the 21st century, advertising expenditures for prescription drugs rose from $791 million in 1996 to nearly $2.5 billion. Business is booming and emptying wallets at a fast clip.
SiCKO has shown us that a prescription priced at $250 in the U.S. costs only $1.25 in Cuba. That isn’t profit; it’s pure avarice.
A grave situation
According to Joseph Mercola, M.D., a leading authority on health and medicine at www.mercola.com, the number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is approximately 7.5 million. In 2001, those procedures reportedly resulted in 37,136 deaths at a cost of $122 billion.
In addition, the number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million, and the total number of deaths induced inadvertently by medical procedures totals 783,936.
Mercola concludes: “It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States.”
Is that what we’re paying for?
Astronomical costs but no cures
Health-care spending in the U.S. amounted to $1.6 trillion in 2003. Such an enormous expenditure should not only result in the best health care in the world, but should also include the curing and prevention of disease.
However, according to many physicians, careful and objective review demonstrates the opposite. “Because of the extraordinary narrow context of medical technology through which contemporary medicine examines the human condition,” Mercola states, “we are completely missing the full picture.”
Medicine, he claims, does not consider the “monumentally important” aspects of a human health: (a) stress and how it adversely affects the immune system and life processes; (b) insufficient exercise; (c) excessive caloric intake; (d) highly-processed and denatured foods grown in denatured and chemically-damaged soil; and (e) exposure to tens of thousands of environmental toxins.
A "scavenger industry"
“Instead of minimizing these disease-causing factors, we actually cause more illness through medical technology, diagnostic testing, overuse of medical and surgical procedures and overuse of pharmaceutical drugs,” Mercola concludes. “The huge disservice of this therapeutic strategy is the result of little effort or money being appropriated for preventing disease.”
In other words, the health industry profits from treating diseases after it’s too late – and, in some cases, with ineffective, dangerous or unnecessary procedures.
And the inherent problem stems from the fact that medicine has become a scavenger industry – big business feeding off human flesh and anguish.
Good health is not just about doctor's visits, medications and hospitalization. It is about sustainable living - affordable housing, untainted food, clean air, living wages and similar factors.
Healing a sick system
What we must glean from breast cancer, SiCKO, the horror stories and health-care workers is that medicine is in need of complete and total reform: from the curriculum in medical schools to addressing alternative choices.
Even major media have validated SiCKO’s claims. CNN fact-checked the film and reported that its statistics were correct.
But the problem goes much deeper than the surface wound suggests. Good health is not just about doctor's visits, medications and hospitalization. It is about sustainable living - affordable housing, untainted food, clean air, living wages and similar factors. And it is about examining all of the structures behind the access to these basic human rights.
Any revolution under a system based on greed has always stemmed from a social movement, usually involving a class or labor issue. Every single social reform in the last 300 years has been wrestled from a social struggle. And every labor strike in recent history has represented a battle over health benefits.
Questioning our institutions, structures and doctors
Simply decrying the current system won’t change anything.From our pain and suffering we must learn to ask questions instead of assuming sacred trust in all levels of our society: government, media, medicine, insurance companies, accrediting institutions, credit bureaus and other agencies that we formerly held in reverence without any doubt.
We must read in between the lines of press releases from the public relations industry that big business pays handsomely to protect its interests (I know; I once numbered among their ranks).
In order to save our lives, we must look deeper at the practices of organizations like the venerable American Cancer Society, which fails to address the risk of cancer from pesticides and other environmental factors and refuses to take a stand on environmental regulation for the sake of human health.
Looking at alternatives: the right to choose
Like Laurel and Hardy's we search frantically for keys to unlock doors that are already open. In order to heal a sick system, we must be honest about the diagnosis and treatment. What needs to go in order to restore wellness? What must be added?
Most importantly, will health-care reform and HR676 embrace alternative practitioners and other possibilities? If people choose a chiropractor, acupuncturist or energy medicine therapist as their preferred treatment method, will a new system cover such costs or will patients still be paying out-of-pocket for natural remedies?
Alternative cancer treatments threaten to starve the insatiable appetite of a multibillion-dollar cancer industry that thrives on the lack of a cure.
Just as a doctor would look at a disease under the microscope and prescribe a program for recovery, so too America must undergo its “lab test” to determine the cause and find a surefire treatment for its health-care woes.
We are in one of the worst moral crises in American history. The plight of America's uninsured and underinsured sends out a wailing siren that the entire health industry, including ourselves as a society, remain in serious need of
a spiritual emergency room.
Barriers to positive change
What prevents this necessary change from happening? Pharmaceutical companies, medical technology firms, health insurance giants and special interest groups with leviathan profits from the business of medicine who refuse to give up their wealth and power.
These entities fund most of the scientific research, support medical schools and hospitals and advertise in medical journals, luring scholars and scientists with big bucks. This greatly influences medical opinion and peer review journals, most of which shun the publication of alternative findings.
Another barrier that the public remains largely unaware of are the bastions of power that control our hospital boards and administrations (mostly lawyers) as well as conflicts of interest among those who sit on medical and government health agencies (pharmaceutical executives). Even medical school faculty often serves as pharmaceutical industry consultants.
Until these barriers are recognized and addressed, the American people cannot enjoy true freedom in their health-care choices or options.
Learning to trust
The greatest challenge in health-care reform is the American people’s lack of trust in government to manage an effective health system. Polls indicate that most Americans want government help with health care but don't want the government running it.
This is probably due to the fact that the vast majority of people receive health insurance benefits from their employers and fear a disintegration in the quality of care, thanks to the bad rap that national programs in other countries have received. Americans have also lost faith in their government.
Still, the Medicare system represents one federally run health program that, according to recent polls, Americans hold in high regard. While no panacea, perhaps it serves as proof that Medicare can work for everyone.
In his book The Spirit of Community: Rights, Responsibilities and the Communitarian Agenda, author Amitai Etzioni calls for “the reawakening to a new balance” between our rights as individuals and our social responsibilities.
“America needs to move from me to we,” he wrote long before the screening of SiCKO.
As a result of Moore’s documentary, the drug lords and medical czars are spending millions in lobbying to stop health-care reform. And these unconscionable thugs are doing everything in their power to stop the truth about what’s happening to folks like you from reaching your political representatives.
Our well-being, our survival and indeed our very lives hang on a thin thread of hope that our leadership will shift from corruption to compassion before it is too late.
But for people who are living in pain and anguish, such as those who submitted their health-care horror stories here, it is already too late. Homes are foreclosing, cancers have spread without treatment, savings are depleted and lives have been lost.
The call for action
The time has come for citizen action to replace complacency and end the epidemic. Your stories touched us and they can certainly touch the minds and hearts of those who hold the decision-making power about our physical and financial futures.
In addition to sending the testimonials and videos to Michael Moore, we plan to send them to our representatives in Washington too along with a petition demanding health-care reform for every man, woman and child in America.
We must bombard our representatives with our reality; we must march on Washington; we must storm the Bastille of Greed and tear it down, brick by heinous brick.
Single payer universal health care is the only sound solution and anyone who thinks socialized medicine would be a disaster needs to spend some time talking with those who have no insurance, preferably in a hospital emergency room.
Where do we start?
First, if you work as an employee of any of these systems steeped in exploitation and human slavery, you need to take a good hard look at the energy systems on which you yourself survive. Is your prosperity based on human sacrifice?
Is there a better means of earning a living? Do you derive pleasure from denying claims or hounding people for a collection agency? Are you profiting from crimes against humanity?
How do you feel when you look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day? Is there a part of you that doesn't even care as long as your coffers remain filled?
Are you the "train driver" of health care?
It helps to look at the situation of the Polish train drivers during the Nazi era. They knew they were taking their human cargo to the German death camps. Yet many said that while it deeply disturbed them, they were afraid of losing their jobs because they needed to earn a living.
Of course everyone has this need. But we must ask ourselves: At what price? Is there a better way to be, do and have? What are the alternatives?
If we are starving and feed ourselves contaminated food, it will never satisfy our hunger or nurture us. It will only make us sick and thus perpetuate our starvation.
Taking a stand
Next, start talking more within your community about health care. Start blogs and the grass-roots dialogue. Flood your newspapers with letters to the editor. Send your stories to the media, to Washington, to Michael Moore and to us.
Make them public instead of cowering in the shadows of fear in the home you’re about to lose. Do what the Dimarcos and Donna Drake have done and take a stand against the system by speaking out and being unafraid to use your name (hear their stories on the front page video streams and read them on the SiCKO page along with others) .
What if we all just stopped the insanity by refusing to cave in to the system’s demands like Donna did? What if we all just said NO to those oppressive premiums that render us nothing more than financial slaves to avarice and greed while we are still denied coverage?
We cannot wait for our deep-pocketed,
well-insured political leaders to make the change. We the people are going to have to
do it - the revolution from within.
Assess the need
Another step we can take is to examine our true need for pharmaceutical drugs. Is your medication really a life-or-death necessity or does your doctor prescribe them as a crutch for a lack of awareness of natural alternatives? Do you really need a medication for your depression or perhaps some spiritual counseling?
When my soul was withering many years ago in corporate public relations, I went to a doctor for insomnia and anxiety from all the stress. He tried to put me on Zoloft – a medication proven to have dangerous side effects, including suicide.
All I needed was an inner spiritual assessment of my life – and a new job. Fortunately, I refused the drug and reclaimed my power by quitting the corporate world to return to journalism.
Making it work
America’s health-care revolution will be one of minds and hearts because it is intrinsically a moral and spiritual problem instead of a medical, political or financial one. The change begins with each and every one of us who just says NO to victimization, financial slavery and inhumane practices.
Marian Wright Edelman, an advocate for disadvantaged Americans, captures the essence of the health-care crisis in these words: It’s a time for greatness – not for greed. It’s a time for idealism – not ideology. It is a time not just for compassionate words, but for compassionate action.
Hopefully we can find a way to convince a lot of wealthy, powerful people that this is the direction we need to move in as a nation. Hopefully we can avoid becoming a shameless spectacle on some future "History Channel" show.
Hopefully we can save more lives before the system completely collapses. Together we can make it work for the benefit of all Americans.
And, if you have insurance and are happy with it, take responsibility for your fellow Americans who lack insurance. Take action on their behalf as a matter of principle rather than personal need.
A spiritual emergency
In his Divine Comedy, Dante wrote these timeless words nearly eight centuries ago: The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in time of moral crisis, maintain their mediocrity.
We are in one of the worst moral crises in American history. The plight of America's uninsured and underinsured sends out a wailing siren that the entire health industry, including ourselves as a society, remain in serious need of a spiritual emergency room - one in which we need to dissect our economic system under the microscope for the cancerous effect it has on our society.
The health-care revolution must begin from within each and every individual. We cannot wait for our deep-pocketed, well-insured political leaders to make the change. We the people are going to have to do it - the revolution from within.
We must transform our passion for wealth and materialism into a passion for compassion - for each other. Whether or not that can happen under a capitalistic system remains to be seen.
This too shall pass
Who knows – you could be the medical system’s next victim. All it takes is one cancer cell or accident today for you to lose everything precious tomorrow – your health, your home, your savings, your loved one or maybe even your own life.
Long waits for appointments; impersonal, robotic treatment; jammed hospitals and emergency rooms; paranoid and exaggerated diagnoses; dangerous drugs and invasive, toxic practices; insurmountable debt; the fleecing of Americans' already meager income; a deaf ear to worlds of healing possibilities - this is our current frightening and paralyzing reality.
Do we really want to continue to live with that?
It’s easy to see the similarities between our health-care system and the Roman Empire. Steeped in corruption and injustice, drowning in decadence and avarice, run by insane and tyrannical emperors who were morally and spiritually bankrupt, a system seemingly invincible finally collapsed.
For those about to lose everything and currently living in quiet desperation, we offer this one comforting thought from the great Zen philosopher, Thich Nhat Hanh:
Seeing the abundance of the oceans, I breathe in.
Seeing that all corrupt empires eventually crumble,
I breathe out.
Sign the petition for health-care reform.
Read the local SiCKO stories here.
Condition: Critical - Read doctors' and nurses' disturbing testimonals about patient neglect
Health Care Solutions - Find out what you can do
The Sedona Observer calls for health-care reform that:
Covers every American - starting with children - and puts our tax dollars to work for well-being instead of war.
Respects human beings and never denies them treatment.
Eliminates any hidden costs, deductibles, co-pays and any out-of-pocket expenses by permanently removing the corporate medical insurance industry, keeping consumerism out of wellness and putting health industry CEOs into permanent retirement.
Embraces alternative and holistic modalities instead of just pharmaceutical Band-Aids.
Takes the responsibility to set proper guidelines for diet and nutrition instead of a food pyramid designed by sugar and processed food industry lobbyists.
Mandates the creation of laws for proper nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals.
Pays all staff a proper wage and respects workers' right to organize.
Employs rigorous ongoing training for physicians so they become educated about alternatives to drugs and unnecessary surgical procedures
Transforms hospitals into true healing centers with more nutrition, color, light, nature and ambiance instead of the current conditions.
Ends the current medical elitism and excessive fees.
"Aesculapius would be ashamed"
The Sedona Observer received the following letter in response to its call for health-care horror stories. We thought it would be more appropriate to run it here:
I was sitting in the waiting room of my doctor's office when I noticed a pharmaceutical salesman come in. Since he didn't have an appointment, he took a seat in the waiting room across from me.
The office has a statue on the wall of Aesculapius, the ancient Greek god of medicine. A note under the statue explains that he represents cleanliness and the healing aspects of medicine.
It goes on to say that the cypress staff represents the unwavering ethic of the physician and the snake entwined on it represents medicine's spiritual connection to the Earth and to wisdom.
I thought it was ironic that this drug salesman was sitting right underneath the statue. It was as though the god was frowning on him!
The salesman was real slick and suited up in expensive clothes. I watched as he opened up his briefcase loaded with drug samples and sorted through them. Then he filled all the shelves lining the walls of the waiting room with brochures promoting drugs for every ailment you can imagine while he waited to meet with the doctor.
My grandmother died in the hospital many years ago from a mix-up in her medications. Back then they said it happened because she failed to tell the doctor what other medications she was on. I wonder: Did they ever ask? As far as I'm concerned, pharmaceutical drugs killed her.
It occurred to me, as I watched him sitting under this respected icon of medicine, that the snake now represents the viper pit of pharmaceutical companies and the staff represents the crutch that drugs provide in a crippled medical system.
Aesculapius would be ashamed.
-- M.S., Sedona
UPDATING THE OATH
We like the recently revised Weill Cornell Medical College's Hippocratic Oath that emphasizes a commitment to “the reward of a long experience in the joy of healing."
The oath also stresses "personal responsibility" as a guidepost for doctors, the "duty to serve as advocates" for their patients, to "champion social justice" for the sick and "forge strong bonds" throughout the healing process.
The oath also reaffirms a "sacred trust" between doctors and patients, advising physicans to "use their power wisely." It also fosters trust and respect within the profession by including a pledge to help sustain colleagues in their service to humanity.
In a culture preoccupied with wealth and power, the oath serves as an antidote to professional arrogance, encouraging doctors to practice humility.
Weill Cornell Medical College's Revised Hippocratic Oath
I do solemnly vow, to that which I value and hold most dear:
That I will honor the Profession of Medicine, be just and generous to its members, and help sustain them in their service to humanity;
That just as I have learned from those who preceded me, so will I instruct those who follow me in the science and the art of medicine;
That I will recognize the limits of my knowledge and pursue lifelong learning to better care for the sick and to prevent illness;
That I will seek the counsel of others when they are more expert so as to fulfill my obligation to those who are entrusted to my care;
That I will not withdraw from my patients in their time of need;
That I will lead my life and practice my art with integrity and honor, using my power wisely;
That whatsoever I shall see or hear of the lives of my patients that is not fitting to be spoken, I will keep in confidence;
That into whatever house I shall enter, it shall be for the good of the sick;
That I will maintain this sacred trust, holding myself far aloof from wrong, from corrupting, from the tempting of others to vice;
That above all else I will serve the highest interests of my patients through the practice of my science and my art;
That I will be an advocate for patients in need and strive for justice in the care of the sick.
I now turn to my calling, promising to preserve its finest traditions, with the reward of a long experience in the joy of healing.
I make this vow freely and upon my honor.
We think everyone in the medical and journalism professions should revise their ethical commitments and update them with new language to offest the current challenges these professions face.
May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses.
May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending
AND NOW THE GOOD NEWS
The next edition will feature a story about HEALTH-CARE HEROES – doctors, practitioners, providers and organizations that are all going above and beyond the call of duty to uphold the Hippocratic Oath and provide true care for those in need.
Tell us about the ones you think we should feature here and how they are making a difference in people’s lives.
Send your suggestions to: editor@SedonaObserver.com.