A good friend of mine was recently told that she will need surgery in order to repair a slipped vertebrae which is now preventing her from walking more than a few minutes before experiencing numbness and the inability to go any further. As someone who has always been active and loved her morning walks, her present condition has dramatically changed her lifestyle and impacted her mental health. However, the prospect of facing an invasive surgical procedure, at age 76, made her think seriously about getting a second opinion, advice she received from all her friends.
So, what happened? One doctor painted a grim picture, telling her that failure to undergo an operation could definitely cause her condition to worsen, while the second doctor seemed more assuring saying that it’s likely that what she’s experiencing now won’t become further exacerbated with the passage of time. Consequently, the conflicting advice has caused her to delay any decision, especially since no one could guarantee that surgery would better her situation.
Her circumstances are far from unique. Each day, people decide to go for a second medical opinion when they are confronted by ominous or frightening health prospects which they are forced to suddenly face. Yet, even in the midst of bad news, many believe that, perhaps, a fresh look at the same set of medical conditions will either yield a more positive prognosis or treatment which they might find less alarming.
However, in order to get an honest and respected second opinion, a patient must have the basic trust that the doctor providing them with his best advice, is doing so based upon personal knowledge, research, years of experience and even emerging innovative alternatives. At least that’s the way it used to be. But the post-Covid era has definitely impinged upon the freedoms once enjoyed by many doctors who are now expected, and even told, that their advice and counsel must comport with governmental standards and recommendations, irrespective of how they view that advice.
Such is the case with one Australian doctor, although not alone in his dilemma. The Brisbane general practitioner, dared to use a medical conference venue, in Sydney to call for his colleagues to “stop forcing vaccines on people who are getting killed by them.” (dailymail.co.uk, 8/7/22) The article goes on to describe him as “behaving in a manner that demonstrates a general absence of qualities essential for a medical practitioner,” as he was filmed throwing away his license. Perhaps such an extreme act might be looked upon as an appropriate response of a physician who believes that governmental guidelines are actually contributing to the demise of the public’s health?
One former Queensland nurse, also suspended from her job for refusing to be vaccinated, states that other doctors have also been threatened with cancellation of their “registration” (the American counterpart of a medical license) if they dare to speak out. She says that some have voluntarily resigned, as an act of disgust with APJRA, their governing agency, which demands that they completely conform to whatever the medical recommendations are as it relates to approved treatments.
This specialist nurse adds that there has been an inability to properly diagnose and report adverse reactions, something which, she says, some claim as being tantamount to genocide. For her, it’s been painfully sad to see doctors, who have invested years of study and finances in order to obtain such a career, now cleaning other people’s homes.
But if doctors are now expected to be in lockstep with one governmental opinion, for fear of losing their ability to continue the practice of medicine, where does that leave those patients who rely on the hope of receiving another viewpoint or alternative treatment which would put them more at ease when faced with daunting health news?
While the above refers to Australia, one of my relatives, who lives in the U.S., told me about his own personal experience of going to his family physician just recently. His doctor mentioned a new “value-based healthcare” system which is expected to be implemented soon. When asked what that entailed, he was informed that physicians will get paid or penalized depending upon the health outcome of the patient they are treating. That means that if the patient’s condition deteriorates, the doctor is likely to receive a penalty or even get paid less.
The obvious conclusion would be for doctors to carefully choose healthier patients, to treat, while getting rid of patients whose conditions are worsening.
My relative, a teacher, internalized this message by likening it to his refusal to teach weaker students, whose low-test scores might pull down the overall classroom level, in order to boost his own rating as a successful teacher.
The doctor, taken aback by his bombardment of questions as to just how this system would play out practically, admitted that most patients never do the needed second-level thinking in order to arrive at the troubling conclusions that a medically-based award system could potentially produce.
For example, what happens to patients who may not opt to follow the doctor’s best advice? Why should their apathy or stubbornness financially impact his livelihood? After all, he cannot be responsible for a patient’s refusal to comply.
Or what happens to oncologists who take on the sickest of patients? Would they be in a constant position of losing income due to those who will never recover, simply because there hasn’t yet been the discovery of a cure for what ails them? What incentive would there be for any doctor to deal with seriously ill individuals? And what about the incentive to innovate if your treatment must solely coincide with the directives of the CDC. The conclusion is that all doctors who follow such advice would no longer be practicing medicine but simply become a cog in the wheel.
When exercising just a bit of critical thinking and asking some crucial questions, even the doctor, who enthusiastically called this the “wave of the future,” had to realize that the obvious ethical issues created from such a system, are, indeed, problematic!
Doctors, who take the Hippocratic oath must remain free and unhindered to treat patients in accordance with their conscience and a value system which only seeks to facilitate health and well-being to those whose lives are in their care.