Troubled doctor examines loss of his own ethics

“I tried to practice ethical medicine, but it didn’t pay.” -- Dr. Sandeep Jauhar

Dr. Jauhar gave paid speeches for a questionable heart medication.

He worked for a cardiologist on weekends who pushes unnecessary tests.

One of his colleagues gives extra long hospital stays to patients to make more money, even though the environment exposes them to deadly infection.

Image / CDC - Debora Cartagena

Attorneys can expose unscrupulous practices in the medical professions.

Another cohort – his brother – refers to patients as “commodities.”

CT scans and stress tests – needed or not – paid off with income. Simply spending time with patients did not.

Dr. Jauhar tells these stories in a book titled “Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician.”

Why did he confess?

“It is hard to imagine such a thing happening in the era of “my doctor,” Jauhar said, speaking in and article in “The New York Times” of the time when patients usually had one doctor who knew them well.

As we are learning more and more in this era of changing health insurance, a doctor is really simply another small businessman. He or she has to make a payroll, pay the rent, pay the electric bill. In Dr. Jauhar’s case, he simply wasn’t making enough money to pay his family’s expenses.

He needed the extra cash, and he enjoyed some of the perks. He liked speaking engagements at swanky dinners with pretty, flirtatious drug reps.

But conscience – and circumstances – changed his ways. He was searching his memory and morals for the state of mind that made him want to become a doctor: to help people. He had lost it.

And the heart drug he was pushing with his speeches received some bad press, so he quit the speaking job. The corrupt cardiologist fired him because he simply wasn’t bringing in enough money.

Make no mistake - doctors work hard. They work hard to become doctors in the first place (Jauhar has written a previous book, “Intern,” describing that grinding year of his experience as a physician.)  The work doctors perform can be unpleasant, mentally intense, and extremely high-stress.

The “fee-for-service” system promotes corruption at the cost of caring medical attention. Insurance companies can easily justify or turn down tests and specific procedures. But “selling medical care” rather than “practicing medicine” is not what our society wants or needs.

It’s challenging enough to be a good doctor, without external pressures of paperwork, politics and pencil-pushing insurance companies. These outside forces of financial-sheet balancing should be eliminated from the process of healing. But the book is long on complaints and short on solutions – it has none.

It is a given that the medical profession is incapable or unwilling to find a solution to this problem.  It is even more unlikely that a solution is forthcoming by lawmakers at the state or federal levels.  

            However, by bringing medical malpractice cases, lawyers can ferret out and expose unscrupulous practices in the medical professions. It’s yet another real reason that the medical profession fights so hard to weaken medical malpractice.            

            The American Medical Association claims that reducing medical malpractice lawsuits is an absolute must. The call for “tort reform” is really just an attempt to confuse any debate on the cost of health care.

 According to a 2004 report by the Congressional Budget Office, medical malpractice claims make up only 2 percent of US health costs. Studies have also shown no decrease in the costs of medical malpractice insurance in states that have passed limits on pain and suffering awards.

The news media is no help. Large awards make big stories, often without exploring how devastating and expensive a medical mistake can be to a patient and to his and her family, or how a mistake a serious loss of quality of life – if not the loss of life itself.

The vast majority of medical professionals are caring, compassionate and competent. But patients who are injured are the most innocent of victims. They deserve compensation that sometimes only the legal profession can provide.

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