Friday, November 17, 2017

Which Doctors Are Most Likely To Get Sued?

Medscape has released its report on medical malpractice in 2017. The survey was taken from over 4000 physicians who responded to their poll. The results show that the top five specialties most likely to be sued are Surgery, OB/GYN, ENT, Urology, and Orthopedics. Over 85% of surgeons and OB have been involved in litigation. Anesthesiology, formerly one of the most notorious specialties for getting sued, drops in at a humble tenth place with 61% having been sued.

Of course the more often one is getting charged, the higher the malpractice insurance premiums will rise. Unfortunately for general surgeons in New York City, their premiums are over $141,000 per year. OB is even great, with almost $200,000 of their hard earned money going to insurance companies. That is an astounding amount of work that's required by the doctor just to pay insurance companies.

Luckily most doctors aren't sued that often. Almost half have faced less than five lawsuits in their careers. An unlucky 2%, have faced ten or more. Maybe those doctors shouldn't be in medical practice at all.

The most common reason a suit was brought against them was failure to diagnose or delay of diagnosis. This occurred about one third of the time. The next most common complaints that lead to litigation are complications from treatment or surgery, poor outcome, failure to treat, then wrongful death. Everything else only occurred in single digits.

A vast majority of the doctors, almost 90%, felt that the lawsuits were not justified. Almost half didn't think the inciting incident warranted a malpractice complaint. They were completely caught off guard when they were filed with the legal paperwork.

It's not just the mental stress that causes physicians to despise trial lawyers and their pesky lawsuits. It takes a huge toll on the time that could be used to see patients or be with families. While many doctors spent 10-20 hours preparing for a case, one third spent over 40 hours to get ready to face the court. A plurality of 39% said they spent 1-2 years involved in one case while an unlucky 10% took over five years to resolve their cases. That's years of their lives they will never get back.

And most of that time was spent for naught. The doctors only lost 2% of their cases, either with a guilty finding or they settled out of court. And when they lost or settled, about one third had to pay out $100,000 in damages. Another third reached $500,000.  Though we often hear about blockbuster malpractice lawsuits that were lost for millions of dollars, only a very small minority of verdicts reached seven figures.

This survey has tons of other data to go over. If you're a doctor who is concerned about medical malpractice, and every doctor should be, it is well worth reading through the entire poll.

Maybe He Can Be A CRNA

The Wall Street Journal has a great article about how quickly one can learn to do things if you're totally dedicated to a single task. Max Deutsch, a 24 year old college grad from San Francisco decided he would set up a series of goals for himself for one year. He would dedicate one month to complete each of them before moving on to the next one. The idea was to make each job so outlandish that he would most likely fail. Surprisingly he has been successful at each item he has tackled. He has taught himself fluent Hebrew, standing backflips, and memorizing a shuffled deck of cards, all in one month each. His college roommate said Max is the fastest learner he has ever met.

His greatest challenge was to defeat a chess app simulation of chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen. To his surprise, a WSJ reporter relayed this story to Mr. Carlsen who agreed to play Max in person. You'll have to read the rest of the article to see how he prepared himself for this incredible meeting and the surprising result. Heck, if this guy studied anesthesiology for one month, he could probably qualify to be a CRNA.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Hardest Part Of Being An Anesthesiologist, Part 2

In the first part of this series, I opined on how the anesthesiologist is not in fact the patient's savior in Preop Holding, unlike what another blogger may have written. There are much harder and more frustrating aspects to anesthesiology than holding a patient's hand. Here, in no particular order, are what I think are some of the more difficult characteristics of this job to get used to.

1. Early morning work hours. If you're a night owl like me, this is a tough transition that your body never really gets used to. Getting up at 5:00 AM to get ready to go to work is not a natural activity for most people. Even now, on weekends I allow my natural circadian rhythm to get me to bed by 1:00 AM and wake up around 8:00 AM. So weekdays are a struggle to get myself into bed early enough to get a good night's sleep. Of course I know some colleagues who are natural early risers and get up at 4:00 AM to go for a brisk morning run before work. I hate them.

2. Unpredictable work schedule. If you're looking for a 9 to 5 job, anesthesiology is not for you. Sure you can find some locations like at academic centers where you do more predictable shift work and are more likely to go home at a set time. But in academia you have other activities to keep you working long hours like giving lectures and attending endless faculty meetings. Most anesthesiologists in private practice have to do the cases the surgeons are booking for that day. One day your work may be done by 1:00 PM. Another day it could be 8:00 PM. And there is no way to tell more than 24 hours ahead of time what kind of day you'll have. You wind up missing a lot of dinners and occasionally surprising your kids when you are able to pick them up from school. It's just that kind of job.

3. You're not in charge. Surgeons bring in the patients who bring the money to the medical facility. They have all the leverage to run the OR as they see fit. You can't dictate when to start the day or when it should end. You don't get to tell people what kind of case you want to do today; you do whatever is offered. Calling in sick is a huge burden because it's not like they have a spare anesthesiologist just sitting around to pick up the work. So if you're an assertive person who doesn't like being told what to do, this isn't the field for you.

4. You feel more dispensable than you would like. You earned your medical degree like every other doctor. You spent years getting trained and board certified to practice anesthesiology. Yet once in practice you'll often get the feeling you're opinion is not taken seriously. A common lament is that if you try to cancel a case, the surgeon will simply ask for another anesthesiologist. It's as if all your years of medical training to provide the safest patient care means nothing. Unfortunately, some of your colleagues will betray you and agree to do it, making you feel small and stupid. Yes you probably did the best thing for the patient but the patient probably did fine during the case. The same can't be said for your reputation in the OR afterwards. You've now become the anesthesiologist that likes to cancel cases.

5. High stress levels especially when on call. Anesthesiology is a high stress career to begin with. Patients can unpredictably crumple within seconds and you have to know how to deal with it. When you're on call, it is ten times worse. The difference is that elective cases are usually on healthier patients and you've had time to evaluate the cases hours beforehand. When you're on call, it can be anything that rolls through the OR doors. It could be procedures as diverse as a five year old with post tonsillectomy bleed to a ninety year old with a fractured hip. A crash C-section on a drug addicted mother to twenty something year old gangbanger with multiple gun shot wounds to the chest and abdomen. While the surgeon only operates on the part of the body he is trained to work with, the anesthesiologist has to be a master at everything. Talk about high stress.

6. You have to act cheerful all the time. The surgeon and the patient get to be grumpy. But nobody likes a dour anesthesiologist. You can't have mood swings and yell at the OR staff like surgeons can get away with. You're supposed to have a calming pleasant personality that's just borderline dull so that everybody in the room feels reassured. A loud angry anesthesiologist will not last in his job for very long. Same can't be said about surgeons.

7. There is very little patient rapport. As I previously mentioned anesthesiologists are the staff with the least amount of time to spend with the patient. The patient loves their surgeon and that's why they're having a procedure with him. The nurses usually have more time to talk with the patient in preop and establish a relationship. You're lucky to get in three questions in preop before people start pacing impatiently to get the case started. That's why around Christmas time the surgeons and nursing staff get all the gifts from patients and the anesthesiologist (who the patient rarely recalls) get to watch other people open them.

8. And finally anesthesia is a very isolating job. If you're used to the team approach in medicine as a resident, you'll quickly discover that anesthesia is a one man show. While internists and surgeons run around in packs, the anesthesiologist walks alone into the operating room and goes home alone. We have no idea what is going on in the OR next door to us. All our cases finish at different times so it's almost impossible to get colleagues together after work to hang out. So if you feel lost without your posse around, anesthesia is not the job for you.

Now don't get me wrong. I love my job as an anesthesiologist. In fact, anesthesiology is considered one of the best jobs in America. However, anyone contemplating going into this field should go in with eyes wide open and understand that it, like any other medical field, has its advantages and disadvantages. Despite this list, for me the rewards of anesthesiology far outweigh the negatives.

The Hardest Part Of Being An Anesthesiologist, Part 1

When I saw the headline in KevinMD, "For an anesthesiologist, this is the hardest part of medicine," I thought, great. Somebody is finally voicing their frustrations with the the practice of anesthesiology. I figured maybe I can learn something from this person's career difficulties and how they overcame it. What I got from the article was not what I expected.

The article is what JK Rowling might describe in the UK as treacly or here in the US as cringy. Its saccharine depiction of the author's encounters with patients in preop made me roll my eyes until my extraocular muscles felt like they might rip off my eyeballs. Dr. Sasha Shillcutt, a cardiac anesthesiologist, describes that when she shakes hands with her patients, they are so scared that frequently they won't let go. She portrays herself as the patients' and their families' medical hero because, well, the surgeon and the preop nurses are just too busy running around to really listen to their concerns. It's the anesthesiologist to the rescue since nobody else in the entire OR suite has the time or the humanity to sympathize with the abject fear the patients are silently experiencing.

I'm sorry but I don't have the same experience. Yes the author can write whatever she wants on her blog, but let me inject some reality into this situation. It's usually the anesthesiologist who is running around like crazy before surgery. Especially for cardiac cases, we arrive in the OR at an ungodly early hour to check our machines, draw up drugs, mix bags of more drugs, and do fifty other things to get ready for surgery. Then we rush to Preop Holding to do a quickie five minute evaluation with the patient and start the IV. We are the member of the OR team that has the least rapport with the patient and their family. The surgeon will presumable have already had a decent relationship with them when he saw them in his office and explained the procedure to them. The preop nurse has had about thirty minutes of undivided attention to sit there and discuss with the patient their history and other concerns. We are the ones who rush in, say a quick hello, and quickly rattle off the anesthetic plan, which for most patients means they will be sleeping during the case. That's usually as specific as patients want to know about anesthesia.

So, no. The hardest part of anesthesiology is not comforting a scared preop patient by shaking their hand. I'll tell you what are really the hardest parts of anesthesiology in the next article.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sexual Harassment And CPR

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that women are less likely to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation from a bystander than men. The study, presented at the American Heart Association conference in Anaheim, CA, looked at over 20,000 cases of people receiving CPR following cardiac arrest.

They found that only 39% of women received CPR when they arrested versus 45% of men. The men were also 23% more likely to survive than the women, likely because they were more likely to get the maneuver done. The researchers speculate that people are too embarrassed to put their hands on a woman's chest to initiate CPR. Even though the proper placement of the hands is on the sternum between the breasts, many people would be hesitant to do that on a stranger, even if they are dying in front of their eyes. Virtually all training videos and mannequins show a male torso being given CPR. There are almost no female torsos shown. If the American Heart Association is too prudish to demonstrate CPR on women, is it any wonder the general public would feel the same?

In this era of rampant reports of sexual harassment, when women seem to be coming out of the woodworks decades after a potential encounter to finger blame on a male perpetrator, who can blame them for the reluctance. The question becomes will you watch a woman die in front of you because you are afraid of a potential legal suit if she lives or will you do the right thing and save a life? I think the answer is pretty obvious.

#CanadaWAITS For Single Payer Healthcare

This is for all those people who just love the idea of single payer healthcare. They believe having the government take over a country's medical system is the right thing to do because, well, healthcare is a human right and thus should be free. Well, let's just go back to kindergarten and relearn the concept that nothing is free in this world. Not even your parents'or your government's love.

A new hashtag was created called #CanadaWAITS by a Canadian author, André Picard. He wanted to hear how Canadians fared with their government run healthcare. And did he get an earful. His twitter page is filled with hundreds of people's stories who waited months, even years to be seen and treated by doctors.

In the meantime, over in the UK, where they are so proud of their single payer system that they featured it in the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, the government is starting to play its inevitable role as rationer in chief. The National Health Service has decided that patients who are obese or actively smoking cannot have elective surgery unless the patient fixes these defects in their personality. Granted this will take place in only one small district. However, the district is expected to save £68 million. And if you're the government who is paying everybody's medical bills, you're going to try to find savings anywhere you can, even denying healthcare for people who are less desirable because of their social habits.

So next time you attend a Bernie Sanders rally, just remember that single payer healthcare sounds great on paper. But you totally lose control of your medical care to some faceless bureaucrat who couldn't care less if you don't get timely care as long as it saves them money.

The Best States To Practice Medicine.

Physicians Practice has compiled a list of the top five best states to practice medicine (requires membership to read the whole report). The results are surprising, to say the least. They are:

1. Mississippi
2. Texas
3. Alaska
4. California
5. Arkansas

They made their list based on the cost of living, the tax climate, physician density, and the Medicare Geographic Cost Index. Based on these criteria, it's astounding that California isn't at the bottom of the 50 states for desirability. We have some of the highest cost of living anywhere. We have the highest state income tax in the nation. Along the coast where people want to live, it seems like half the kids in good schools have physicians as parents so the competition for patients can be intense if you're just starting out. And the Medicare reimbursement really isn't high enough to compensate for the high costs of everything else in the state. But if you can afford it, and you don't mind having a lower standard of living considering your sizable income, California is a beautiful place to live.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Joint Commission Sued For Opioid Crisis.

This couldn't have happened to a nicer group of bureaucrats. The state of West Virginia, which has the highest rate of drug overdoses in the country, is suing The Joint Commission for instigating the opioid epidemic plaguing the nation.

The lawsuit is based on the TJC's recommendations in the early 2000's to aggressively treat a patient's pain symptoms. Since the TJC has the power to shut down a medical facility if it didn't follow their recommendations, their suggestions were essentially blackmailing physicians to do what they wanted. They urged doctors to make sure patients were "free from pain." They pushed the so called "fifth vital sign" which had the consequence of making doctors prescribe narcotics far more frequently than otherwise.

However, few people knew that the TJC's pain recommendations were based on studies that were sponsored by drug companies such as Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, maker of Duragesic.

I'm glad somebody is finally calling out The Joint Commission's power over healthcare with little accountability. I've bemoaned the senseless rules they have imposed on our hospital in the past that have no relationship to any legitimate study on patient safety. If they are going to make up rules that affect the practice of medicine and patient care, they better be able to stand by them in the court of law. Otherwise, the government needs to look into the TJC's monopoly power to hand out hospital accreditations without any official oversight. This is truly an organization that has run amok terrorizing medical facilities with no recourse for the hospitals who may disagree with its demands.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

CRNAs Are Smarter With Money

We doctors think we're so smart, with our years of medical training and our precious hard earned degrees hanging on our office walls. But economically, it makes little sense anymore to go into medicine and hope to get rich. While the income is certainly in the top 1% in the country, the six figure debts that are incurred severely hinders physicians' ability to get ahead.

By contrast, CRNA's have it all figured out. PayScale, the compensation tracking company, has declared that a CRNA degree is the most lucrative master's degree in America. With a two year degree, a CRNA can earn anywhere from $143,000 to $165,000. The second most lucrative master's degree is for telecommunications engineer with a median of $141,000. The reported CRNA salary is comparable to Medscape's APRN Compensation Report where survey respondents average $182,000. If they get a PhD, they will make even more money.

The nurses who get CRNA degrees have a work history prior to getting their master's. That is one of the prerequisites of getting into the program. Therefore they have some savings cushion when they go to school to get their degree. Since the program is only two years long, CRNA's usually come out with close to $100,000 in student debt.

By contrast, most medical students go straight from an expensive undergraduate program to an even more expensive medical program, with zero income to show for all that training.  Even after medical school, their incomes are a pittance for years as they go through residency and fellowships, frequently shouldering hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans.

As physician compensation continues to be pressured downward and the cost of the training rises inexorably, the economic rationale for becoming a doctor makes less sense. It truly becomes a calling, like going into ministry, to get a medical degree. Maybe it is the CRNA's that are really doing it for the money.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Anesthesiologist Who Treated Texas Shooting Patients

The New Yorker has an interview with Dr. Maxim Eckmann, an anesthesiologist who was on call at University Hospital in San Antonio when the victims of the church massacre started coming in. It's professionals like Dr. Eckmann who keep calm and collected when seconds count and lives are saved. Thank you for being there when your patients needed you the most.

How To Prescribe Medical Marijuana

Algorithm for prescribing marijuana.
Did you miss your cannabis pharmacology lecture in medical school? Were you too busy following your Facebook friends when your attending described how to prescribe marijuana during morning rounds? If you did and you have no idea how to get in on the lucrative medical marijuana business, the Medical Board of California has good news for you.

The Board, along with coauthor Governor Jerry Brown, has published a short, concise pamphlet on how to prescribe medical marijuana. It is only six pages long, not counting the diagram at the end. Why are they publishing information about a drug that they clearly state in the pamphlet is "an illegal substance under federal law"? Because California voters approved way back in 1996  Proposition 215, which made it legal for people to acquire marijuana for medicinal purposes. It's taken 21 years for the Medical Board to finally establish instructions for physicians "who choose to recommend cannabis for medical purposes to their patients, as part of their regular practice of medicine, that they will not be subject to investigation or disciplinary action by the Board if they arrive at the decision to make this recommendation in accordance with accepted standards of medical responsibility." In other words, it's another way for California to thumb its nose at the feds, like so much else it's been doing since the presidential election last year. If a doctor gets in trouble with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency for prescribing marijuana, he can point to the publication from the Medical Board to prove that he was following strict guidelines made by the state. So there. Nah Nah.

Of course the instructions don't actually tell you how to specifically write for a marijuana prescription. The reason is that marijuana has no proven medical purposes. It's almost all anecdotal as there are no controlled studies for how weed might help patients. As it states, "At this time, there is a lack of evidence for the efficacy of cannabis in treating certain medical conditions" such as patients with cancer, AIDS, anorexia or chronic pain.

The purity of the leaves the patients eventually buy are lacking. It's not like a regular pharmaceutical that has undergone years of clinical trials to arrive at the precise dosage necessary to treat a specific medical condition with minimal side effects. One sample of pot will almost certainly contain a different amount of active ingredient from another sample even if they're both from the same plant. So how can the Medical Board possibly instruct physicians on how to prescribe marijuana?

Instead most of the guideline just goes through the usual patient-physician interaction that you learned when you first started your clinical rotations in medical school. Things like how to document the patient's health, how to make an informed decision on choosing marijuana, discussing alternative therapies. Yada yada yada. When a patient goes to a doctor looking for a marijuana prescription, I don't think they are the least bit interested in discussing alternative therapies.

Regardless of how effective these guidelines are, the sclerotic Medical Board has already missed the boat when the state's voters agreed to allowing recreational marijuana use last year. Starting in January, any adult can purchase pot without a prescription. The state is already anticipating billions of dollars of new taxes. Doctors can then get out of the business of cash for prescriptions that has become a source of shady income for some.

Sen. Paul Assailant Pleads Not Guilty.

Next door neighbors in their gated mansions in Bowling Green. 

Retired anesthesiologist Rene Boucher pleaded not guilty in court today for attacking his next door neighbor Sen. Rand Paul. Dr. Boucher was charged with fourth degree assault which carries a possible one year jail sentence.

However the charges may be upgraded to a felony due to the severity of the injuries. Sen. Paul revealed that he actually has SIX rib injuries and hemothorax around his lung. That was some tackle. The FBI is also investigating since this was an attack on a federal public official.

Too bad the senator and the anesthesiologist are not on speaking terms anymore. Since Boucher is a pain specialist, he could have given him a few intercostal blocks to ease his pain. But I don't think Sen. Paul will be inviting his neighbor over for beer and basketball games anytime soon.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Medical Emojis

Emojis are awesome. I love how they can graphically replace a long string of words with one single image. With the new animojis on the iPhone X, they are going to be even more fun to use than ever. Medical related emojis aren't that well represented. However there are some that could stand for different medical fields. Here are a few examples:


Internal Medicine
Ha ha. Just kidding.

This Is The Dumbest Way To Conduct Residency Interviews.

I'm not sure why I never noticed before, but I finally realized that my fourth year medical students were paying hardly any attention in the operating room. Instead they were glancing at their smartphones incessantly every few minutes. I thought maybe these millenials just can't stop checking their Instagrams even at work. But then one of them told me up front that he will be on his phone to check his emails for any residency interviews that might be offered and will be distracted the entire time.

Why? Don't they just send out a letter informing you that you were accepted for an interview? He just kind of rolled his eyes and looked sympathetically at me like I was his senile grandfather. He explained that these days, residency programs will send out mass email to everybody they find acceptable for interviews. However there are not nearly enough spots in the program for everybody they invite. Therefore only the first few people who answer the emails will get the interview. He had several friends who missed out on interviews at coveted programs because they were busy and didn't reply to their emails within 30 minutes of receiving them.

I was astounded by this revelation. Just to confirm that the first student wasn't pulling my leg, I asked another student in a separate room and who didn't know the first one, if this was true. She said yes. During these program interview months they are constantly checking their emails. But how do you know when to look? She said it depends on where the residency is located. If they are on the East Coast, the acceptance email may arrive on the West Coast at 5:00 AM Pacific time. Conversely for those on the East, the West Coast programs may send out their emails when it's 8:00 or 9:00 PM Eastern time. Essentially they are locked to their smartphones from the time they get up until nearly bedtime.

I don't know when or how this started and I'm not sure why it's done this way, but I have to say the way medical residencies send out invitations for residency interviews is one of the stupidest ways I can think of to find future physicians. When did finding our best and brightest doctors turn into a radio call in contest where the first ten callers get tickets to the Bruno Mars concert?

It just doesn't seem fair that after years of hard exhausting work, these kids may miss their number one choice for a residency because they were actually paying attention at the hospital. Some of our students have travelled thousands of miles and spent thousands of dollars to come for their externships. It's really not right they waste all those resources checking their email accounts when they should be trying to impress us to get into a residency. 

I'm really surprised the ACGME allows this conduct to occur. They should be looking after the medical students' best interests. The students gain nothing during the important autumn months of their fourth years if they're worried they may miss the most pivotal interview of their lives because they put the phone down to go to the bathroom. How can the residency programs care so little about the crucial fourth year medical education? They are just being too lazy to conduct a proper vetting of the applicants who they really think will do well at their programs. Maybe they should go back to snail mail like back in my youth. Our medical students are getting no favors with this "Survivor" method of choosing their careers. The future of medicine deserves better than this.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

My Experience With Propofol Frenzy

The Mayo Clinic Proceedings recently had an informative article on a condition called propofol frenzy. This is a state where propofol has an unintentional effect of causing increased agitation rather than the expected sedation. I wish this article had arrived a few months earlier because I was flummoxed by a patient with the exact same problems.

I had a female patient describe to me how she always goes into "seizures" after getting propofol for endoscopic procedures. I was skeptical of her description and explained to her that propofol actually attenuates seizures and is used to break seizure activity. I should also mention that she says she's allergic to benzodiazepines. Her old anesthesia record didn't document any complications from previous sedations so I assured her I would use as little propofol as possible to get through her procedure.

The endoscopy proceeded without incident and was quickly completed. Postop, she was extremely lethargic, much more than would be expected from a small brief interaction with propofol. After about 20 minutes she started to thrash her head. Then she began trying to get out of bed and then falling hard back onto the mattress. It took four people to hold her down and keep her from injuring herself. The entire time she was not aware enough to answer questions. When we brought her husband in, he said that is pretty much what happens every time.

Finally after about one hour she started to calm down and became responsive to commands. After two hours she was calm but felt too groggy to go home. We finally decided to admit her because of her symptoms. The admitting team even ordered a Neurology consult to rule out seizures. Of course they found nothing.

The Mayo article notes there is no known cause why propofol causes a paradoxic reaction in some people. Maybe it deactivates GABA receptors in some whereas propofol normally activates GABA. But nobody knows for sure. It's not related to the quantity of propofol given. The seizure like activity is not attenuated by adding more drugs like benzos or narcotics.

The only recommendations are to anticipate the symptoms if a patient tells you they get seizures with propofol and to avoid propofol if possible. Perhaps attempt sedation with dexmedetomidine, benzodiazepines, or narcotics if propofol frenzy is a possibility. And always listen to your patients.

Senator Rand Paul Attacked By Anesthesiologist Over Landscaping?

Here's a quick follow up to the bizarre incident last week in Kentucky. Senator Dr. Rand Paul was out mowing his yard when his neighbor, retired anesthesiologist Dr. Rene Boucher, assaulted him without provocation. The senator was wearing sound cancelling ear protectors at the time and did not see or hear his attacker coming. In the melee, Sen. Paul suffered five rib fractures, pulmonary contusions, and facial lacerations.

What is so strange about this is that the two have been neighbors for years. They both practiced at the same hospital in the past. However the two have not spoken to each other in years. Though they had very different political leanings, other neighbors discount the idea that political ideology played a role in the fracas. According to Jim Skaggs, the developer of the community and who lives nearby, "They just couldn't get along. I think it had very little to do with Democrat or Republican politics. I think it was a neighbor-to-neighbor thing. They just both had strong opinions, and a little different ones about what property rights mean." In other words, "Stay off my lawn!"

Dr. Boucher is currently being charged with fourth degree assault, a misdemeanor. Based on the severity of the senator's injuries, the prosecuting attorney may upgrade that to a felony. Somehow I think there is still more to this story than what is being discussed so stay tuned.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Another Experimental Cocktail To Die For

Here we go again. State prisons all around the country have been having increasing difficulty achieving their public duties to execute convicted felons. Drug companies have made it a policy not to sell their pharmaceuticals for executions because, well, they were not approved by the FDA for that purpose. In the meantime, the court systems have halted executions when they believed the prisoners would suffer any kind of pain during the process. In desperation, prison systems have been experimenting with different cocktails of drugs to carry out their deathly functions.

We saw recently how Florida became the first state to use etomidate as part of their drug cocktail for executions. Propofol has been getting more difficult to attain as drug companies and pharmacies demand that their wares not be sold to the penal system. Now Nevada is trying another novel drug: cisatracurium. The state will be trying a new potion consisting of fentanyl, diazepam, and cisatracurium on Scott Raymond Dozier. Mr. Dozier was convicted of two separate murders. He is schedule to be executed November 14.

Naturally there are all sorts of objections to this, besides the general disagreement with capital punishment. The state's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John DiMuro was an anesthesiologist. However he resigned a week ago and his replacement is a psychiatrist. Some fear that a psychiatrist would not know how to administer these drugs. The state assured that there would be trained medical personnel at the time of injection.

The ACLU also objects that cisatricurium would paralyze the prisoner but not actually kill him, causing him to die of slow painful asphyxiation. This actually makes some sense. None of the drugs being used would be considered fast acting. With this combination, the prisoner would die from oxygen deprivation, which is very slow. This is unlike the previous drug cocktail of pentathol, succinylcholine, and potassium. Those drugs are all rapid acting and lead to amnesia and cardiac arrest quickly. So if not enough benzos are given, and this can be tricky since many of these prisoners have histories of drug abuse that require larger than normal pharmaceuticals to work properly, the condemned may awaken before the cisatricurium has stopped his breathing long enough for the heart to fail. They would have to administer massive doses to be sure the drugs take effect quickly.

Naturally this debate will continue since they are trying to execute somebody using chemicals that were developed to help life, not end it. If they truly wanted to end Mr. Dozier's life quickly, history has cleverly invented all sorts of contraptions to do just that. However, we Americans are just too squeamish to consider using them as part of our "sophisticated" modern society.

Anesthesiologist Attacks Senator And It Has Nothing To Do With Obamacare

Here is the poster boy for the Anti-Trump Derangement Syndrome. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was severely injured over the weekend by his next door neighbor. Apparently the good senator was just minding his own business and mowing his yard when he was unexpectedly tackled by physician Dr. Rene Albert Boucher. Sen. Paul suffered five broken ribs (!) and cuts to his face.

As it turns out, Dr. Boucher is a retired anesthesiologist who is affiliated with The Medical Center at Bowling Green. He is a pain medicine specialist and graduated from the Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has been practicing medicine since 1982. His claim to fame is that he invented something called the Therm-a-Vest, a rice filled vest that is heated up in the microwave than worn around the thorax to relieve back pain. It was marketed on QVC but never took off. The doctor retired in 2015. The ASA will be happy to hear that he doesn't appear to be a member of the society.

The deranged physician is a registered Democrat and his Facebook pages are filled with anti Trump and liberal rantings. If he was smart, he would have realized Sen. Paul, an ophthalmologist, is one of the senators that's inhibiting the more conservative members from carrying out the Trump agenda. But there is no reasoning with stupid.

Republicans Give Doctors The Middle Finger

So all you doctors who voted for Republicans in the last election thought you were going to get a big ole tax break thanks to the GOP's control of all branches of the federal government. Candidate Trump and all the Republican Congressmen claimed they were going to enact massive tax reform to give the middle class YUGE tax relief if they got elected. Well guess, what, they won and we doctors lost.

The Republicans in the House of Representatives released their tax reform bill last week and it sure likes they are giving doctors and other professionals the middle finger. It has to do with pass through corporations that many professionals like doctors, lawyers, and architects use. It's a legal way of lowering taxes by separating out the business taxes from the personal taxes. Its more famous users include former Senator John Edwards and former Congressmen Newt Gingrich. By declaring an extremely lower personal income relative to their total income from their businesses, they were able to save thousands of dollars from their payroll taxes.

The Republicans have decided that businesses who use pass through corporations should get a lower tax rate just like the large corporations that will receive a substantial tax cut. In this case, the pass through tax rate will be lowered to 25% from the owner's personal rate, which is usually in the upper brackets of the tax system.

However this new lower rate does not apply to a few select professions. Why? According to Rep. Chris Collins of New York, a Republican, "If you earn your income as a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, you're not getting anything. But you're not supposed to get anything--that's how you earn your income. It was intended to lower the rate for manufacturing companies making widgets and employing other people."

And you wonder why doctors are always getting screwed by the federal government? This Congressman said physicians are essentially just leeches on the government and the country. We only take money and don't contribute anything to society. Never mind that doctors have a huge influence on how trillions of dollars are spent in healthcare. All those millions of people who work in this industry, from the office clerk, to nursing staff, to hospital administrators, medical device manufacturers, and insurance companies, are dependent on doctors. If physicians decide not to use their services, they would be facing the unemployment line tomorrow.

But no, Congress thinks doctors don't deserve a tax break because we don't make any widgets. This is one more nail in the coffin of doctors in private practice. More doctors will start realizing that being an employee of a large medical corporation is the future of medicine. Taking less income is surely more appealing than wrestling with the indignities heaped upon us by our own government every day.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Animoji Karaoke

I have wasted far too much time this weekend watching the latest internet sensation, animoji karaoki. Thanks to the iPhone X and its face detection technology, people have discovered more uses for the front camera than just unlocking the phone and taking selfies. Even though the phone was just released to the public three days ago, there are already lots of amusing karaoke clips on Twitter and YouTube. My kids and I can't stop watching them and you probably will get a few good chuckles too.

Friday, October 13, 2017

How Propofol Works

Like reliving a long forgotten nightmare from biochemistry.

Anesthesiologists have a surprisingly poor understanding of how anesthesia works. Maybe it's because we don't really understand how the brain itself functions or how consciousness is formed. All we doctors know is that the FDA approved these drugs for anesthesia. We inject them into a patient and, voila!, the patient is unconscious. Why is that? Sure we can recite some mumbo jumbo about GABA and NMDA receptors, but how do these cause the brain to fall asleep? It's remarkable that the FDA approved these drugs without more complete information on their mechanisms of action.

Now there is another explanation for how propofol and other induction agents work their magic. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers discovered that these drugs inhibited the movement of kinesins. What is that, you ask? In case you have completely forgotten your microbiology after twenty years of practice, kinesins are little intracellular motors that transport material along microtubules that allow the cells to function.

The researchers found that propofol, along with etomidate and ketamine, decreased the effectiveness of these kinesins to move their cargo. Though the rate of transport isn't affected, the distance the kinesins can move their cargo is decreased. Thus the neurons are not able to function normally and supposedly this will lead to unconsciousness. Or something like that. You'll have to go read the research paper yourself to get a more cogent summary of their work. I threw away my college microbiology textbook decades ago.

Who Is Better At Assessing Surgical Risk?

JAMA Surgery has a paper asking who is better at assessing surgical risk: internal medicine residents or surgery residents. The answer is obvious--neither. It is anesthesiologists who are best equipped to determine the potential for postop complications. Duh. It is what we do every day. Patient safety is like 95% of our thought process. It's practically in our DNA. It is even in the title of this blog, "There are no substitutes." We train for years and years learning how to guide a patient safely through their surgeries. So the question about whether internists or surgeons are better at deciding patient safety after surgery is ludicrous. The anesthesiologists are the guardians of surgical patients.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dubious Milestone In Anesthesia

Anesthesiology has given the world great advances in medicine and healing. In fact, it was voted one of the highest achievements in the history of medical literature. Unfortunately, lately the only time anesthesia is mentioned is when it causes harm, or even death, usually in a sensational fashion.

Now anesthesia has entered the public discussion once again with the news of a prisoner execution in Florida last week. For the first time ever, the drug etomidate was used as part of the IV cocktail to cause the death of a convicted inmate. This news seems to be more widely covered in British media. They appear to be more fascinated with capital punishment than the Americans probably because capital punishment is outlawed in most of Western Europe.

Mark Asay, a white Floridian, was convicted of the racially motivated murders of two minority men back in 1987. After decades of litigation, he was finally put to death with a combination of etomidate, rocuronium, and potassium. This has caused an uproar besides the usual moral handwringing over the death penalty in general. The defense attorneys argued that etomidate is an unproven method for achieving death. They hired doctors who testified that etomidate can cause pain prior achieving its effects.

Meantime, the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the etomidate is objecting to its obviously non-FDA approved use of the drug. This is the reason that more drugs are becoming off limits for use in the death penalty. Previous attempts using pentathol, propofol, and midazolam have been thwarted because the penal system was unable to acquire the drug due to manufacturers' refusal to sell the product or the courts have deemed them cruel and unusual punishment and thus illegal.

Because of these difficulties with IV injections for capital punishment, some states like Mississippi are considering bringing back the old reliables like a firing squad, electrocution, or the gas chamber. That is probably the proper approach. Stop bastardizing anesthetics that were invented for medical purposes to somehow humanize an inhuman act. Centuries of human executions have given us plenty of methods to kill somebody for state reasons. Don't drag anesthesia into this mess.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Next Statue To Fall May Be Of A Doctor

This is the slippery slope that we have been warned about. Ever since the violent clashes that afflicted Charlottesville a couple of weeks ago, statues of Confederate army generals and soldiers have been removed all around the country. Regardless of how the local citizens feel about them, politicians are so cowed by the possible outcry from loud activist groups that the memorials are being taken down without debate or consultation. It appears nobody has the spine to defend free speech, even hateful repugnant free speech, from an angry mob.

Now the righteous hordes have cast their indignant nets wider to tear down other commemoratives they find offensive. Annapolis removed a statue of former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Roger Taney because he wrote the misguided Dred Scott decision, the one that affirmed slavery in the United States. Though a terrible decision in retrospect, it was representative of the thinking of 19th century America and a teachable moment for today's society. Now his figure won't be present to remind people of the mistakes we have made in the past and to avoid in the future.

The next unlikely statue to be beseeched by the PC crowd is of Dr. J. Marion Sims. He is called the father of modern gynecology and founded the first women's hospital in 1855. His statue in Central Park, New York is facing angry calls for removal. What was his unforgivable sin? In the early 1800's he experimented gynecologic surgeries on African American slaves, frequently without any anesthesia.

As one protester says, "At best, J. Marion Sims was a racist man who exploited the institution of racism for his own gain." Another decried, "Memorializing of imperialist slaveholders, murderers, and torturers like J. Marion Sims is white supremacy."

Already a statue of Dr. Sims in Columbia, SC is facing an uncertain future as Mayor Steve Benjamin has called for its removal. Says the mayor, "The most offensive statue I find on our capitol wasn't the (Confederate) soldier, it was J. Marion Sims." Looks the the doctor won't be welcome for long even in his native state.

So next time you nod your head in agreement with violent thugs who refuse to let a small minority of incorrigible racists express their right to free speech, just remember that the next target for censure might just be your own views. And there might not be anyone around to defend you anymore.

Texas Tough

Hurricane Harvey's terrible toll on Houston, seems to have brought out the best in humanity. There are numerous stories of strangers helping strangers escape the horrendous once in a millenium flooding that is ravaging south Texas.

I can't help but contrast the difference between the altruism of Texans and the helplessness of Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. Back in 2005, Katrina slammed into New Orleans and unleashed a similar flooding when the flood dikes gave way, inundating the poorer, lower lying sections of the city. The city opened up the Superdome to house their displaced citizens.

Then the people appeared to get stuck there. Despite what looked like only ankle deep standing water surrounding the stadium, thousands of people were not able to leave and nobody seemed to step forward to help them. I'm glad that the self sufficient Texans are taking matters into their own hands and not waiting for the inevitable slow hand of government to come to their rescue.

Let's not even mention the histrionics that would blare through the airwaves if Los Angeles ever faces a real rainstorm. In this city of precious snowflakes who don't know how to drive properly even when the roads are dry, a forecast for a couple of inches of rain brings out mass hysteria with local news reporters. Dire warnings of dangerous mudslides and flooding are ubiquitous for days prior to even a single drop of rain falling. Then afterwards there are the usual recriminations about how the government wasn't prepared enough to help the people through the horrible tempest.

So God bless all the Texans who are helping each other out during this cataclysm. We're all pulling for you and hope you stay safe.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The President And His Cocaine

This is why I find history so fascinating. Here is something I didn't know about Ulysses S. Grant, the eighteenth president of the United States. Grant, not known for being a sharp businessman before becoming president, was facing bankruptcy after he retired from public office. Mark Twain offered to write his memoirs so that Grant would not leave his wife a pauper.

However, Grant was facing an oral cancer that was growing more deadly and painful by the day. This was thought to be due to his penchant for cigar smoking and alcoholism. To ease his discomfort, his doctors applied cocaine to his throat to take away the pain. While he was initially able to dictate his autobiography to Twain, he later had to write it out since he was no longer able to speak.

He finished his memoirs just a few days before he finally died. The book turned out to be a best seller and his wife received a royalty check of $200,000. The general fought a good fight all the way to the end.

Checking Off The Bucket List

Last week, I had the opportunity to check off an item that was near the top of my bucket list. Unless you were living under a rock, you probably know that the Great American Solar Eclipse occurred over the continental U.S. from coast to coast for the first time in over one hundred years. I've seen several partial solar eclipses in my lifetime, but this seemed like my best chance to see a total solar eclipse. It took place during summer vacation so I could take my son to see it and the maximum totality would happen in the Midwest where I went to school so I had plenty of friends to visit. This was not going to be some solar eclipse in faraway places like the South Pacific or on a remote Asian country.

The problem with going to the Midwest is that the weather there is extremely unpredictable. For the seven days prior to the event, the weather forecast seemed to change almost hourly. Finally on the day of the eclipse, there were some ominous clouds in the western sky in the morning but we hoped for the best. We went to my friend's farm for a viewing party and eagerly chowed down on good down home barbeque while waiting apprehensively with our eclipse glasses.

Unfortunately about one hour before totality, the clouds started rolling in. They weren't particularly uniform, just patchy, but this could mean trouble. With about thirty minutes before the start of totality, it looked like the clouds were not going to cooperate. However there was a small patch of blue sky east of us that everybody could see. We all jumped into our cars and raced towards that clearing. It seemed like everybody else thought the same thing and cars were zooming through the small back country roads heading in the same easterly direction.

As the magic moment approached, we could tell that we were not going to catch up to the clear sky that lay tantalizingly close but still so far away. With about one minute before the start of totality, and the sun just a thin crescent, we finally had to admit defeat and had to find a place to park and hope for the best. I had brought my fancy camera with its extended telephoto lens and solar filter for naught.

Then it happened. The western sky turned very dark. Soon we too were enveloped in the eery twilight that caused the street lamps to turn on and the crickets to chirp their evening songs. The only natural light was way out along the horizon where the sun was not completely covered by the moon. As we kept staring up into the sky, it happened. The clouds just barely thinned out for a few seconds and we saw the eclipse and the corona. It was truly magical. Though it lasted for the briefest of moments, in retrospect I feel like I was mesmerized by it for a long time. My good friend and hostess was able to keep her wits together and took the picture that you see above. That is the only decent eclipse picture we got on our journey despite me lugging that expensive camera equipment halfway across the country.

The next time the clouds parted, the sun was already peeking out from behind the moon. Fifteen minutes later the rain clouds opened up and we were inundated with the typical Midwestern summer thunderstorm. But we had accomplished what we came to do. Grinning stupidly from ear to ear, we high fived each other for a job well done. We didn't get the best view of the eclipse, but we got a view of one which is more than I can say for many other people. As far as pictures go, there are plenty of pictures on the internet of the Great American Solar Eclipse that are far better than anything I could have produced. At least this one picture, and my all too brief experience with my first total solar eclipse,  I will treasure for a lifetime.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wrong Priorities

At the risk of sounding like an old fart, I have to admit that we attendings frequently talk about our residents critically when they're not around. One common observation is that residents and fellows these days really aren't that into education. Surgeons complain their residents would rather round, or even finish writing patient notes, than enter the operating rooms. IM physicians gripe about residents who are nowhere to be found when an interesting case shows up at 4:00 PM. In fact, the hospital halls are pretty bereft of trainees after 5:00. Where are all the bright, intellectually curious young doctors these days?

A new poll just released by Medscape illustrates this problem. A survey of over 1500 residents asked them what were their biggest challenges during their training. The results are rather disheartening for those who had high hopes for the next generation of physicians.

As you can see, the number one concern that residents feel they are facing is "Work-life balance". By comparison, the reason they are in residency to begin with, "Developing the clinical skills required for the specialty", is down at a woeful fifth place. Really? Are our millenial physicians really such snowflakes? Is the medical field doomed when attaining knowledge lags behind worries about having the time to binge watch Game of Thrones?

In an era when medical information is growing exponentially, shouldn't this next generation be more troubled by whether they can keep up with that deluge of data instead of hoping they can get out in time to meet with their personal trainer?

Let's remember why medical residents are called that in the first place. Back in the day, they practically lived in the hospital for days at the time, thus the title of resident. Taking every third or fourth night call was common practice. Work-life balance was something you only hoped to attain once residency was finished, not striving for during the training itself.

Now we notice that attendings frequently stay at the hospital longer than our residents do. Critical decisions are made when most of the team have already left the building. This is the sad future of medicine. Shift work is being ingrained into the mentalities of our impressionable doctors. The days when the caring physician will stay at the bedside through the night will soon be history as work-life balance takes precedence over patient care.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do Not Donate Money To The ASAPAC Yet

It's that time of year again. Like the Salvation Army's brigade of Santas and their red kettles who appear before Christmas each year, August marks the ASAPAC's annual donation drive, or Day of Contributing. This year it will occur on Thursday, August 10th.

But I'm here to tell you not to give any money on that date. Only a fool would give them any moolah this week. I'm not saying don't contribute to the ASAPAC. They are the most effective political action committee in medicine and one of the most effective in Congress. The more money we anesthesiologists give to them, the more the profession can effectively fight the encroachment of CRNA's, poor payer reimbursements, and other major concerns.

The reason I suggest holding off on giving to the DoC Thursday is because you will get nothing in return. Though the yearly event always reminds me of a public television donation drive, you will receive nothing for your generosity. PBS will give you a nice mug or towel, maybe even a book or DVD if you are generous enough. By comparison, the ASAPAC gives you bupkis.

What really got on my nerves last year though was that the goodies are given the weeks AFTER the DoC. In the past I've dutifully made my online contribution to the ASAPAC and urged others to do the same. Then I realized that if you wait just a few weeks, they will actually give you free stuff to show their appreciation. It's nothing significant, just little tchotchkes like pens or flashlights with the ASAPAC logo. But it's still better than nothing.

When I saw the gifts they were handing out, I emailed the ASAPAC to ask if I could have some of the items too, since I had JUST given them a few hundred dollars. "Sorry, no can do," was my reply. They were only for that particular fund drive. Giving to the DoC was purely out of the goodness of your heart. If you want ASA paraphernalia, you'll have to wait for a different event where they actually promise to give you things. Gee, thanks a lot. I feel like I just got shafted by my own professional society.

So please contribute to the ASAPAC. But you don't have to give them money on the arbitrary day of August 10th. They will take your money any day of the year. Just wait until they pass out ASA logo'ed hats or T shirts if you truly want to feel appreciated.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Best And Worst Diets In The World

Not on the Mediterranean diet.

Medscape made a list of the best and worst diets in the world. The results are rather predictable. Americans in general eat all the wrong foods. Our meals are high in fat, salt, and sugar. They're usually highly processed because who in America has time to cook meals from scratch each night after both parents come back from their ten hour days at work.

The best diets are probably what you would guess. The Mediterranean diet comes in for high praise, with their emphasis on whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. The French diet is also highly ranked, despite their foods that are loaded with fats and creams. Maybe it's all the red wine that keeps the cardiovascular disease away. Naturally the Japanese diet was mentioned since half their population is more than 80 years old.

A few of the national cuisines that are highlighted seem to be of a dubious nature. Believe it or not, the food of Chad, the West African/sub Sahara country, was recognized for its healthy nature because of its prevalence of unprocessed high fiber food. That is if you can get any while roaming through the Saharan sands and trying to evade the radical Islamists that terrorize that region of the continent.

The foods of India are also considered healthy. "Goats, chickens, and sheep often roam freely and are fed a naturally organic diet." Sounds like the livestock there eat whatever trash they find along the side of the road. No thanks. I prefer that the animal meat that I consume has been given a well controlled diet over one that may have just plucked up some worm slithering in the mud near a giant trash pile.

Even the tiny island nation of Barbados comes in for acclaim. Their diet consists mostly of fruits and vegetables. In fact their people are some of the highest consumers of plants in the world. Maybe it's because their land doesn't have enough room to raise livestock?

Essentially what this Medscape list is trying to show is that it is better if we all eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while consuming less meats and processed sugars. That regimen is highly replicable and not limited to any one particular nation in the world.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"Good Morning. What's Up?"

A quick update on the horrible murders of two engaged Boston anesthesiologists, Drs. Lina Bolaños and Richard Field. The lone suspect, Bampumim Teixeira, had his day in court to face charges of murder, home invasion, armed robbery, and kidnapping.

As tearful family members of the victims looked on, Teixeira cheerfully and casually greeted the judge with, "Hey, good morning. What's up?" The prosecutors provided more details of the crime during the session.

The suspect was apparently familiar with the building as he had worked as the building's concierge the previous year. Security cameras saw him get inside the building's garage with a backpack, which contained duct tape, a knife, two fake guns, and a mask. He made his way to the 11th floor where the doctors lived by climbing the stairs since he didn't have security access to the elevators. He then hid in a utility closet that had a peephole where he could look for victims.

Dr. Bolaños arrived home first around 5:00 PM while Dr. Field came back about 6:30 PM. Shortly after, Dr. Field texted a friend that there was a gunman in the house. When the police arrived before 9:00 PM, they found both doctors dead with their throats slit. Teixeira was shot multiple times by the police when they confronted him. They found his backpack filled with jewelry and other valuables. Unfortunately for justice, he was taken to a hospital where he was given expert medical care and survived.

In court, Teixeira pleaded not guilty to the crimes. The judge ordered him to jail without bail. His next appearance in court is scheduled for September 12th.

Real Estate Insanity In Los Angeles

Is the real estate market in Los Angeles in a bubble? Check out this listing in Venice, CA. For a cool $3.95 million, you get a 773 square foot house with two bedrooms. Half the house looks like it was converted from a screened in porch. It's not even close to the beach or the famed canals. But you can call Snap, the social media company, a neighbor and enjoy the intoxicating aroma of California's finest weed wafting into your little closet of a house. Saves money on buying it yourself. That's worth almost $4 million, right?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Socialized Medicine Is Inevitable

It's over. The U.S. Senate has failed to pass any reform to Obamacare tonight. The promises the Republicans made to overturn the ACA ever since it became the law of the land have proven to be illusory. When they finally controlled both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, they embarrassingly shrank from all their grandiose talk. They meekly succumbed to liberal pressure and lost the number one item on their agenda after the election.

But it really isn't that surprising that Obamacare will continue to survive. Throughout these few months of debate, it seemed the only thing that mattered about healthcare in America was how many people would have insurance coverage. Every bill was meticulously reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office and its findings breathlessly announced. No matter how the Republicans tried to ease the phaseout of the ACA, the only thing the news media cared about was how many million fewer people would have health insurance.

It was rarely stated that hundreds of counties in the country currently have only one insurance company to choose from because insurance companies were losing money from so few healthy people willing to buy their plans. Little was mentioned of the double digit price increases in premiums that were taking place. And if it was brought up, then the burden was supposed to be eased by increased government subsidy payments to help people pay for the insurance. It was always about more and more government money being used to pay for this "right" to healthcare. In other words, socialism. There was no debate about how this is ultimately unsustainable and will eventually bankrupt the country.

So now we careen headlong into the final solution. Universal socialized healthcare fully funded by taxes to the government is the endgame here. After years of propaganda to convince the American public that the only metric that matters is the number of people with health insurance, they have now fully embraced that notion. Any new healthcare plan that is devised will need to cover the last ten percent or so of the population who still don't have it. Anything less will be seen as unacceptable, no matter how expensive it may be. American medicine as we know it is dead.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

What It's Like To Be A Nurse

We all could use a good laugh now and then, and this one is good for more than a few chuckles. Buzzfeed put together a list of memes about what it's like to be a nurse. The list has one hundred items so don't read it during a critical moment of your patient care. I've included a few samples below to give an idea of what the article is about.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Patients With Older Doctors More Likely To Die

A study out of the BMJ has concluded that patients who are treated by older physicians have higher thirty day mortality than younger doctors. Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa and others from the Harvard T.J. Chan School of Public Health evaluated 736,537 patients records in the U.S. that were managed by 18,854 different hospitalists. They found that while the thirty day readmission rates were the same, patients whose doctors were greater than sixty years old had an 11% higher thirty mortality than ones who were less than forty. This works out to one extra death for every 77 patients that were treated by older doctors.

When broken down by age categories, doctors aged less than forty had a 30 day mortality of 10.8%. Those between 40 and 49 were 11.1%. From 50 to 59 were 11.3%. And doctors 60 years or older had a mortality rate of 12.1%. However, when the researchers stratified by patient volume, doctors who took care of the highest number of patients, greater than two hundred per year, did not show any difference in mortality between age groups. They speculate that by treating larger numbers of patients, older doctors are more likely to keep up to date on best medical practices and current knowledge base.

This study adds more evidence to the hypocrisy that medical boards thrust upon their younger doctors to pay for expensive Maintenance of Certification programs. Other articles have also pointed out that it is the older doctors who are most at need to recertify for their boards regularly since many haven't cracked open a textbook in decades. Yet they were given lifetime board certification while their younger colleagues are the ones who have to spend countless hours and thousands of dollars to keep theirs. Reads like a medical version of Wacky Wednesday.

If the name of the author of this study sounds familiar to you, that's because this is the same team that published the controversial paper last year that claimed female physicians are better doctors than men. Therefore for patients to have the best outcomes they should only be treated by doctors who are young, female, and attractive. Okay I added the attractive part but it makes sense if it will bring along more male patients, who are notorious for not seeking routine medical check ups, in to see their doctors. All you male premed students might as well forget about applying to medical school. You'll just wind up killing more patients than your female classmates.