Physician Heal Thyself

Times change.  Back when I bought drugs, my contacts were mostly small business proprietors, students, street hustlers, etc.  I never thought to ask a doctor.   Stupid me.

Seven doctors, characterized as “hired guns” for dispensing thousands of pills without medical justification, were charged in the latest crackdown on South Florida pill mills, federal authorities said.

It was Phase II of the two-year Operation Pill Nation, announced at a news conference at DEA offices in Weston on Thursday.  “The DEA does not target doctors; we target drug traffickers,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark Trouville said. — Sun Sentinel

Of course, both the times and the drugs were quite different.  So, apparently, were the doctors.

“[If] these folks [are] hiding behind a white jacket and diploma, it doesn’t give them a pass if they are just trafficking in drugs,” [DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark]Trouville said.  Investigators estimate these doctors made up to $10,000 per week dispensing prescription medications, often for cash on the spot.

“It’s simply a for-profit, moneymaking operation where undercover agents are going in and with very, very minimal, if any, medical examination, they are given very powerful controlled substances that are very dangerous,” Trouville said.  “These folks are simply doing this for profit and greed,” he added. “There’s no intent for good medical practice there.”

So bidness is bidness.  While a physician can still make good money practicing medicine, he can make great money prescribing drugs.  Good vs Great — what’s the issue here?  Be all you ever aspired to be.

“I still don’t get it,” {Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti] said. “A doctor goes to medical school for 10 years to learn how to save lives and ends up ruining lives and that’s something we just can’t tolerate.”

Really, Sheriff?  You don’t get it?  Let me try to provide some insight.

First of all, these folks went to school for ‘way more than 10 years, and their passion goes back ‘way farther than that.  Most planned for social status, even glory, as well as financial security,  even wealth.  And they anticipated personal power and respect for their profession.

How 19th Century.

The insurance industry, governed by attorneys and accountants, changed all this.  They reduced the role of a physician to bureaucrat, a computer-dependent form shuffler no longer responsible for decisions or medical judgments.   First they stripped away the status, then they got really nasty and reduced the money.  Substantially.  In a word, the insurance industry castrated the medical profession and enslaved its practitioners.

As for the doctors, lacking anything resembling education or training in ethics, they opted to become willing pawns in the game  — low hanging fruit for the cut-throat capitalists running the insurance racket.  Convinced their fondest aspirations for wealth, power, and glory (etc.) were no longer accessible under the rules of the changed game, they modified their approach accordingly.

See — they didn’t go to school for ten years to save lives, Sheriff.  They went to school for ten years to get rich, and to bask in all the glory riches bring.  It wasn’t about saving the earth or helping its people, it was about their own well-being and material success.  This career decision to prescribe drugs rather than practice medicine wasn’t even difficult.  It even seemed right and logical.  Some of them are surprised they’re even in trouble for making it.

It’s a real sordid outlook, a depressing portrait of our times, and a scary bellwether for the future of the profession.  It’s also as real as mortality itself.  You might want to know what happens next.  There might be many others with the same question.

But there are none I know of with any answers.

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3 Responses to Physician Heal Thyself

  1. Merkin Way says:

    I agree that the insurance companies had a lot to do with ruining the practice of medicine as it existed for centuries, and that this in turn soured many physicians on their careers. I also agree that many ambitious young people chose careers in medicine for the wrong reason — money — and when the money wasn’t there in the obscene amounts they envisioned, it soured them further.

    Where I disagree is that these are the only factors contributing to this tragic and criminal trend. There has been an accompanying trend in America that crosses all professional boundaries, and that is the collapse of community. By and large, Americans have forsaken our sense that what we do, how we conduct ourselves, what we say aloud in public, etc., has serious and lasting ramifications beyond our own selfish asses. Replacing this community sense is the feeling that everybody can do whatever he or she can get away with, and, worse, any backing off of this attitude is in fact stupid, naive, and self-destructive.

    In fact, this is the mindset that gave rise to the insurance companies’ approach that you correctly assess, and the initial receptiveness of the medical profession to its own eventual destruction.

    That, my friend, is the real tragedy here because that’s the end of America.

  2. Barbara Ganousch says:

    I am a nurse practitioner, the daughter of a nurse, sister to two nurse practitioners, and mother to at least one more.

    You’re dead-on right about doctors, insurance companies, and the slow death of the science of medicine in their hands. Here’s the good news: the values you cherish live on among the nurses, who remain generalists in their training, compassionate in their care, and committed to their careers and patients.

  3. Beardsley says:

    Don’t leave out simple greed, cynicism, deterioration of values, etc. — these things don’t just happen overnight, they reflect cultural trends and political forces which are themselves the product of human intention. The best defense against these forces is an enlightened individual, one whose background includes such scorned topics as professional and personal ethics. Individuals with even a modicum of a sense of right and wrong simply don’t corrupt themselves and their profession the way these doctors are alleged to have done, regardless of the financial gain. The horror of it all is, they lack even that much.

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