Hospitals raking in cash from unnecessary surgery for dying seniors
S. D. Wells
Several colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health recently reported that 1.8 million Medicare beneficiaries age 65 or older died in 2008, and over 34% were operated on during their last year, 25% in their last month, and 10% in their last week of life.
Other studies show that just the stress of surgery and poor conditions of hospitals is adding to mortality rates, including post surgery pneumonia and heart attacks. To throw salt in the wound, the nation's 175 lowest quality hospitals are actually the highest cost institutions.
Doctors simply are not having conversations with patients about what they want out of their last days, and probably don't care because of the guaranteed revenue increases they receive from surgery. Most of the unnecessary surgery is a distraction from what is really important to patients, like being able to spend time with their loved ones and have some "quality of life."
The Medicare website for reporting unnecessary and inappropriate surgery describes it as being an operation for a condition that could effectively be treated with medication or physical therapy. Unfortunately, there is nothing listed about nutrition, vitamins, or supplements of any kind. In fact, there is no doctor in the country who can mention natural remedies without endangering his or her license to practice medicine. The FDA outlaws any natural remedy from claiming it can cure a disease, so the general public still believes surgery and chemotherapy are their only options.
Doctors in the United States are trained to do mainly three general procedures for the sick and dying; operate to surgically remove the problem, administer chemotherapy, and prescribe pharmaceuticals to mask or relieve symptoms and pain. The effort to remove cancer that surrounds or invades organs is one of the most popular surgical procedures. Unfortunately, clipping off the "tops of weeds" doesn't change the fact that they'll grow back, and since the chemicals in food and overall bad nutrition fuel the issues, most of these cases return as life-threatening situations within a few years, if not a few months.
In one case where an elderly man had pancreatic cancer, the doctors did an endoscopy and a colonoscopy because they said they were, "Trying desperately to find something we could fix." But surgery can be painful and debilitating, and pancreatic tumors are rarely discovered early enough to save the patient, so the surgery was a complete waste.
The most popular chemotherapy drug is Gemcitabine, which claims to only help about 25% of patients. So the rest either undergo useless surgery or are sent home to die with no nutritional advice.
Cancer is a chemically driven disease, and chemotherapy is a chemical which deprives all cells of oxygen, not just the area of concern. Often surgery also causes internal bleeding which spreads the cancer. Simply put, interventions should extend life and reduce suffering. As far as cancer patients are concerned, they should be juicing organic vegetables, taking supplements, and living out their last month, year or years happily at home, not in a hospital getting "juiced up" with chemicals. Maybe then recovery itself would actually be an option.
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