Archive for the ‘Medical System’ Category

Updates on Pain


Hi Everyone,

I have had a lot going on and I wasn’t able to post last month but I am back and hope to write three posts this week.  Most of you don’t know I like to visit second life now and again, lately it has been again and again lol.  Right now, I am in a virtual world at a writer’s camp out site. Nothing like writing in the woods.  Today they are having an all day writer’s marathon.  I don’t think I will be able to stay for eight hours but I hope to use the time to get out these posts.  Anyone who is on Second Life, my avatar’s name is Eppie Shoreman.  Any of you who are on SL or plan to be on SL, there is a support group for chronic pain at “The Centering Place” on Second Life.  Contact me for details.

Now I am going to give you some updates on pain.  I’ve been meeting many people in the last few months who have other illnesses and also have developed chronic pain disorders.  Many of them are suffering greatly because their doctors do not know how to treat their pain.  I encourage all of them to see a pain management specialist.  Unfortunately, as many of us know, even seeing a specialist is no guarantee that your pain will be controlled.

There is some new information in the American Pain Foundation’s Spring Newsletter.  For those of you who are interested in Occupational Therapy there is an article written by an Occupational Therapist.

In “Health Decision Putting Your Best Foot Forward,” the author talks about challenging the decision that the doctor knows best.  Most of us who have chronic pain disorders have found ourselves in the difficult position, should I listen to this doctor and go quietly out of his or her office without adequate support for pain control or should I speak up for ourselves and try to get the medication and therapies I deserve?

Getting adequate pain relief unfortunately often  means seeing several doctors until you find one that will really listen to you and agree to be part of your team in helping you achieve good pain control.

I have found that bringing Selch to my appointments has been a really big help.  Having someone go with you to your doctor’s appointment who is knowledgable about your condition and is willing to stand up for your rights goes along way in helping you to find  health care professionals that will help you with your pain.

If you don’t have a friend or a relative who can fill this role, I suggest that you check out local pain support groups in your area and see if you can find someone in the group who is willing to be a “patient advocate” for you.  If you can’t find someone locally search for support services available in pain foundations and also visit different pain support groups on the Internet.  Post that you are in need of someone in your are to act as a “pain advocate” for you.  You may not find someone right away but I’ve found that when I am looking for support, persistance matters.  If you are in too much pain, ask a relative or friend to do this for you.

I cannot stress how important it is for anyone with a chronic pain disorder to get the help they need to achieve good pain control.  Any of you that have other ideas and experience to share regarding finding help for pain control, feel free to reply to this blog post.

Karen Richards writes some interesting articles on pain.  See “Growing Pains, a Predictor of Fibromyalgia,” She refers to an article in Reuters and talks about misconceptions about growing pains and how growing pains may be an early indicator of fibromyalgia.

Another very interesting article by Karen is “War on Drugs Has Ended – What Does This Mean for Pain Patients?” If you have read my blog, you know that I have posted more than once about the “War on Drugs.” Karen writes, ” In May 2009, nearly four decades later, Gil Kerlikowske, the new director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), declared the war on drugs to be over.”  This guy must not be living on the same planet as those of us with chronic pain disorders.

Health care providers and even pain management specialists in growing numbers are refusing to give people who have chronic pain the narcotics they need to function day-to-day in their lives because of past DEA actions, pending regulations and the constant media exposure of the continuing War on Drugs.  Totemism regarding narcotics is still prevalent.  There are still so many people saying that we need to get rid of these evil narcotics that are destroying so many lives.  Eliminating prescription narcotics will do nothing to stop people from recreationally using narcotics.  They will just go to another readily available source to get their drugs.  Pain patients are left without adequate pain control.  When will the media and the government start caring about the millions of people in the world who are suffering from chronic pain?

About the ONDCP’s educational efforts regarding the needs of chronic pain patients, I am afraid it is too little too late.

The Pain Monitor from the APF has some interesting info for people with chronic pain. It has news information about different pain topics as well as resources for chronic pain patients.

These are some pain updates for April.  As always, I hope to be your faithful correspondent.

Chronic pain- Recent Updates


Hi everyone,

Recently, I’ve been having a difficult time with various illnesses  so I am a little behind on posting.  I have found multiple articles that may be helpful to those of you with chronic pain.

First let’s discuss slow breathing might help pain.  I first learned about this practice in prenatal classes prior to the birth of my first-born.  Imagine the scene on of Alien when Sigourney Weaver’s guts were being ripped apart by the alien.  Slow breathing did little to help 13 hours of Pitocin induced hard labor.

Fortunately, I have found tha slow breathing can be affective for chronic pain as well as anxiety attacks related to my FTD.  The author also mentions mindfulness exercises which I do incorporate with slow breathing.

Try to sit in a relaxed position.  Breathe slowly and concentrate on each breath and how it feels as it goes in and out .

Regarding mindfulness exercises, the mind is a wild horse and it takes awhile to “break it in.”  If you continue practicing mindfulness exercises which can be something as simple as repeating one syllable phrases over and over again, the results you will gain in helping to control your pain will be well worth the time.

The next article is Tattletale Pills Remind You to Take Your Medication.  Two topics are discussed.

Companies are using wireless technology to develop devices that monitor whether you take your pills.  One way people may be doing this in the future is swallowing a microchip about as thin as a few human hairs.

Over a two-year period, it became increasingly difficult for me to remember to take my medicines and take the correct dosage.  Fortunately, Selch has worked out a system that makes it easier to make sure I receive correct dosages at the correct times.  He bought a large square pillbox that has little boxes for each day of the week and boxes for morning, lunch, afternoon and bedtime.

He or my aide have to pour my meds which also include pouring  liquid pain medicine  into small plastic bottles for each time I need to take a dose.  Even though we have an organized system, someone still has to remind me to take my meds.

The author of the article writes about  a pill that, once ingested, wirelessly transmits information about side effects and how well it’s working. 

Information is sent it back in a readable form to a cell phone or e-mail account.

I wonder if it also tracks any information about side effects that may occur?  The author writes it might be available as soon as the end of 2011 but I imagine that it will be first  for the kind of medication that gets the most attention and research funding such as cardiac meds.  Still, if it works, it may be able to benefit those of us who take medication for chronic pain and FTD within the next five years.

The other invention discussed in the article is the GlowCap that helps people remember to take their medication.

If I was still taking my meds from a bottle,  I don’t think I would see the glowing orange light.  Also what “melody” are they talking about?  Have you ever seen the movei, “Little Shop Around the Corner?”  Jimmy Stewart plays the head clerk.  The manager bought a large amount of cigar or cigarette boxes that play a melody when the person opens the box.  No one wants to buy them and Margaret Sullivan ends up getting a job as a clerk in the store because she convinces a woman to buy the box by telling her that it is a candy box.  When you open the box to take a piece of candy, the melody plays so it reminds you not to eat too much chocolate.

The next article is New Extended Hydromorphone approved.  Hydromorphone is also known is Dilaudid which is one of the medications I take in liquid form for breakthrough pain.

Dilaudid, in past research, is known to be a short acting medication so an extended release version I think is definitely a plus for chronic pain sufferers because Dilaudid can be very affective in helping pain.  It works by making the person feel like the pain is not as bad as it is.

As Karen says, Exaglo is being released under the REMS program which we in the chronic pain have been welcoming like the plague.

The company that developed Exaglo is CombinatoRx, Incorporated (CRXX) which develops novel drug candidates with a focus on the treatment of pain and inflammation.

An article in Bioworld says Exalgo’s REMS  includes “safe-use tools” for prescribers, patients and pharmacists to ensure the “right patients” get the drug and at the appropriate dosages, he said.

Neuman noted that Exalgo’s REMS is less restrictive than the one Covidien initially had recommended to the FDA, which currently is working on developing a classwide opioid REMS.

As I have explained in previous articles, REMS for other specific long acting narcotics as they stand now are very restrictive and will certainly cause many physicians to stop prescribing these narcotics and many pharmacies to stop dispensing these narcotics.

In Pain, they outline the REM requirements for Exalgo.  They sound much like the REM plans for other narcotics.  I am concerned that even if a doctor agrees to enroll in the Alliance program and patients agree to enroll in the program that pharmacists will not enroll in the program.

Let me give you a personal example.

We have recently moved and Sech went to the local CVS to get my pain meds. filled.  We had no problem in obtaining the medication at the pharmacy in the previous state  where we lived . All CVS stores order from the same distributors.  Selch spent three weeks getting the run around from our new local CVS pharmacist before he finally agreed to order my medication.  When Selch brought the meds home, he opened the sack up to discover that the pharmacist had given me the Mylan Fentanyl patches although Selch had specifically ordered the Sandoz patches.  Mylan do not work as well for me.  I am not putting them down, to each his/her own and I bless what ever works for you.

The pharmacists said that Sandoz patches were not available.  CVS stores nationwide order from same distributor.  This does not compute.  If this is the attitude of pharmacists now will they be willing to enroll in this Alliance Program?

Notice in the Pain Topics commentary that” FDA Briefing Material for the meeting  provides no data indicating exceptional abuse liability for hydromorphone and  a clinical study conducted in only 9 subjects that found hydromorphone was no different in abuse potential than hydrocodone or oxycodone.”

Also, “hydromorphone products accounted for less than 1% of nonmedical use of all pharmaceuticals, less than 3% of such cases involving opioid agents, and it was implicated in less than 1% of all drug-related suicide attempts.”

I agree that data does not call for such a restrictive program for this new drug.  Lack of data has never stopped the feds from involving themselves in the practice of medicine and trying to persuade physicians not to prescribe narcotics.  Remember the  DEA practice ofraiding of doctor’s offices a few years ago?

The author of Pain Topics asks, “Will there eventually be separate REMS programs for every opioid analgesic, each with its own registration requirements and prescribing procedures?”

Unfortunately, I say yes there will be if they have their way about things.  I don’t know what drives the DEA and the FDA to practices that are and will keep more and more chronic pain patients from receiving their pain medications.

They consider those of us who need narcotics to have any quality of life an acceptable sacrifice for their stated agenda which is  to keep people from abusing prescribed pain medication.  Even their own studies and data do not show that there is significant abuse in people who take prescribed pain medication.

Taking pain medication away from people who need in it in hopes that it will keep people from abusing drugs(who are taking their relative’s and friend’s pain meds)  is not realistic.  When you cut off one source, people who abuse narcotics will just find another source for their habit. Despite the “War on Drugs,” narcotics are plentiful.  So what have they accomplished?

Are these agencies that naive or is this a power agenda?

I have no idea, but we as chronic pain patients need to tell everyone we know what is going onand  we or our loved ones who understand what is going on need to write our congressmen.  I understand that we are all victims.  We are victims of our illness and victims of the medical and governmental system.  But, the only way I  see that we can make a difference is if we ban together and tell anyone who might be able to help us in our cause for the right to have adequate pain relief.

There are some rays of hope in this darkness of denial such as the MayDay Pain Project.  John Stossel recently did a program about the plight of chronic pain patients, War on Pain.  It was on the Fox Business Channel so most of us were unable to see it.   To watch the program go here.

One of the physicians in the practice where I go for pain management is involved in the MayDay project.

Let’s all pray that someday soon this world will WAKE UP.  Until then, remember we are all brothers and sisters united by our souls.  Whether you believe it or not the thoughts that we think may affect our reality so try to think positive thoughts.  I’ll be thinking positive thoughts for all of you and know that you are always in my prayers.

Anti-depressants may not work


I just read an article in Newsweek that says antidepressants may be no more effective than placebos. I have been on several antidepressants.  My relationship with antidepressants started when I was having moderate situational depression.  The doctor tried putting me on three or four antidepressants but none of them helped and I had the additional burden of side effects along with depression.

The only thing that helped my depression was getting out of the situation.  But, I have talked to many people who swear that antidepressants help them so I’ve always thought if they work for them and they suffer no side effects then I wish them the best of luck.

After I developed symptoms that could not be explained, physicians that I saw always pushed antidepressants.  They told me they weren’t saying that everything was in my head and that anti-depressants actually had been shown to help my symptoms.

I gave them another go round.  Again, nothing but side effects.  So, I started refusing antidepressants.

Then, my doctor diagnosed me with complex regional pain syndrome.  He has a very scientific way of thinking and explained to me in a scientific manner why antidepressants work.  So once again I hopped on the horse.  This time my companion was Cymbalta.  For the first two weeks, I actually felt better.  I happened to be on vacation in No Where’s Ville, Pennsylvania when I had a severe anxiety reaction due to Cymbalta.  My physician advised that I immediately stopped taking it.

After that, I started doing some research of my own regarding side effects of antidepressants, reading some studies and reading  lots of testimony from other patients that  made me realize that antidepressants can have some major side effects, even suicidal ideation.

Since then, the only thing I have let my doctor prescribe in the anti-depressant category is Trazadone in a very small dose to help me sleep at bedtime.

I have been mostly focused on side effects of anti-depressants in recent years and haven’t paid that much attention as to whether they worked or not.  Many people said that they really work for them and who am I to judge?

I do remember reading a study that said the body adjusts quickly to change in serotonin levels.  I also read recently that serotonin levels are not the hallmark for depression that everyone has been thinking they are.

The article in Newsweek says that studies show that anti-depressants are no better than placebos.  I believe we all have the ability for self healing if we are able to have faith.  Perhaps there is something to the placebo effect and no one should be concerned or ashamed if it truly is a placebo effect.

I am  concerned  that when everyone starts reading this article , they might discount the placebo affect and perhaps not feel as well.  I suggest reading the writings of Edgar Cayce if you are open minded.  His abilities are an example of how the mind does have the power to heal.

I grew up in church where they told us that healing only came through Jesus.  Now I do believe that healing does come from God but the power to heal has been given to all of us.

Remember the passage in the Bible that said if you have the faith of a mustard seed you could move mountains.  I think so.

I once knew a man who had the “gift” of healing.  He knew this gift came from God and everyone has the potential ability to “heal.”  It is one of God’s gifts to humanity.

I cannot say whether antidepressants work for others or not.  In the article someone asked why would the FDA would approve antidepressants if they didn’t work?  The FDA has a huge political agenda and they are not always looking out for the best interest of the people.  See FDA REMS and the fact that they have blocked two new pain medications that might help chronic pain patients.

Please if you are on an anti-depressant, talk to your doctor before you decide to stop taking your medication.  If you get off antidepressants suddenly it can cause serious withdrawal symptoms that could be life threatening.

Living with FTD-Frustration of Diagnosis and Support for FTD Patients


I am going to be writing more posts on what it is like living with FTD in the near future.  This morning, I want to talk about a particular frustration that I share with some other people who have FTD as well as people whose loved ones have FTD.

The “typical” FTD patient according to most medical literature exhibits personality changes, “acting out behaviors”, denial and lack of insight about their illness.

In reality, symptoms of FTD can wildly vary among people who have the disease.  FTD is hard to diagnose because a person with FTD can show symptoms before actual brain damage shows up on an MRI or brain scan.

Even people who have typical symptoms often will be misdiagnosed as having psychiatric problems and spend valuable early years under the treatment of a psychiatrist and taking psych. meds that actually may make their FTD worse.

Most neurologists do not have the training to diagnose FTD.  People with FTD usually “pass” typical neurological examinations.  Thus, the neurologist tells the patient that he or she cannot find any neurological abnormality that explains their symptoms.

I have many FTD symptoms but as I mentioned above, I do not have the typical symptoms that doctors use to screen for FTD.  I’ve had unexplained neurological symptoms, anxiety, depression and increasing apathy towards activities of daily living for the last five years.

My husband and I went through Dante’s Medical Inferno trying to obtain diagnoses for my other illnesses (RSD, abdominal migraines, Celiac Sprue, Meniere’s Syndrome, etc.) I’ve met some physicians who belong on the inner rings of hell but after years of struggle I finally met a few doctors who are good Samaritans.  You will know when doctors get their angel wings every time that hell freezes over.  Okay I’m joking, sort of.

I was admitted to the hospital for unexplained neurological symptoms.  The neurologist came in with a gaggle of baby docs, did the usual neurological examination and said what so many have said before, “I don’t know what is wrong with you.”

My husband, a battle worn veteran of diagnostic warfare and physician retreat, requested that the neurologist order an MRI of my brain.  The neurologist complied.  Most doctors are willing to order an expensive test.  Why not, if the insurance company pays for it and they can be rid of a difficult case that could potential cost them time, money and liability by using  the authority of  The Test that will certainly show something if there is actually something wrong.

My MRI was consistent with FTD/shrinkage in the frontal and temporal lobes on the left side.  The neurologist had his own opinion.  Although he knew nothing about FTD, he told me that FTD was rare and I did not exhibit the symptoms so he was sure that I did not have FTD but I should follow up with another neurologist.

If, I had not been a professional patient then I probably would have gone to another neurologist who knew nothing about FTD.  I would have continued having greater difficulties with anxiety, depression, loss of speech.  When I started having auditory hallucinations then I would have probably been referred to a psychiatrist and  put on psychiatric medication that might make my FTD even worse.  My family totally baffled by these developments as I became incontinent and unable to speak would be advised by friends and the family physician that it was probably time to put me in a nursing home.  I might have died not ever knowing I had FTD.

As I mentioned, I belong to an FTD support group.  They are a really nice group of people almost all caregivers that provide a lot of good information and are very supportive to whoever joins the forum.

I am glad I found this group.  I can’t go out to a support group and there aren’t really any other FTD support groups online.  As the months passed, I discovered as many people do who have chronic, serious or terminal illnesses that I really wanted to talk to others who also had FTD.  It is great to have supportive friends but sometimes when your in this sort of situation you really want to talk to someone who is  down there in the trenches sinking in the same mud.

Fortunately, I met a very brave and compassionate woman who has FTD.  She’s made a documentary about families coping with FTD.  She invited me to a weekly chat group where I eventually met six other people with FTD.

Most medical literature says that the hallmark signs of FTD are acting out, personality changes, denial and lack of insight into illness.  Another FTD “researcher” told me despite my solid proof that I did indeed have FTD diagnosed at Johns Hopkins that I could not have FTD because of did not have these “hallmark” symptoms.  He told me he had reviewed 2000 cases (I later found out not actual people but autopsy slides of people) and all of them had the “hallmark” symptoms.

It is a fact that I have met a total of seven other people who have FTD, are able to communicate and have insight into their illness.  I realized if there are eight people who have FTD who did not have the classic early symptoms of FTD that neurologists use to screen for FTD then there are probably many people living their lives that are progressively becoming more difficult that don’t realize they have a terminal degenerative brain disease and they might have only a few more years to live.

This possibility really bothers me.  Most people who have terminal diseases have some forewarning even if it is a short period of time to say what they want to say to their loved ones and get their affairs in order.

No one knows when they are going to die and many people die in accidents.  Still it bugs me with all our modern medical technology that there may be thousands of people out there who don’t know that they have a devastating terminal illness.

Since most recognized FTD patients are unable to express their needs in a functional manner there is not the kind of support for FTD patients that there is for people with other terminal diseases.  Support for FTD on the Internet is primarily focused on caregivers.  I certainly agree that they need much  support but I think there should be more support in the medical community for FTD patients including those that are unable to communicate their needs.

Since FTD ,until recently, has been considered a rare disease even by FTD specialists, there are very few programs set up for FTD patients.  I wished that FTD patients were able to receive the same kind of support that Alzheimer’s patients are now receiving and that there were  more clinics that had programs and interaction for FTD patients.

New research in Alzheimer’s has also lead to new research in other neurogenerative diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s and FTD.  I hope in the near future that there will be more programs for FTD patients.

Currently, FTD patients are treated with medications for symptoms.  Most FTD patients before they are diagnosed have been progressively having  increasing problems at their jobs and not long after they are diagnosed they end up having to go on leave or disability.  They remain at home with their families until their loved ones can no longer take care of them and then they are placed in nursing homes where they usually rapidly decline.

I have read about a lot of families that are wonderfully supportive and do everything they can to help their loved ones with FTD.  Also the Alzheimer’s Association has support groups for people with presenile dementia that people with FTD can attend.  Unfortunately, I am too disabled by my other illnesses to be able to attend a meeting.

Still, the burden of care and support remains with the families of loved ones.  If people with FTD don’t have loved ones that are able to take care of them and support them, they end up living alone until they cannot take care of themselves and then they are put into the nursing home.

I have not seen one article that addresses the possibility that there may be thousands of people who have FTD who do not know they have FTD because even FTD specialists rarely see “atypical” patients such as myself and the others who I have met who are “atypical” patients so they may not even know “atypical” patients exist.

It is a fact that there are people that have FTD who are able to communicate and have insight into our disease.  There must be others like us  who are probably falling through the cracks because they do not have the “hallmark” symptoms of FTD which are used as a screening tool for FTD.  Perhaps when FTD no longer is labeled as rare by most neurologist, this will occur to some physicians.

I read an article recently in which an FTD researcher speculated due to the new research breakthroughs they are making in discoveries about neurodegenrative diseases that the diagnosis of FTD may end up accounting for 65% of people who have presenile dementia.

I do not wish for anyone to have FTD but the more number of people who can be found that have FTD means larger amount of funding for further research and programs for people with FTD.

If people with FTD were like stars that scatter the universe and I was an angel, I would scoop them all up in my magical net and protect them under my wings.

I am one spiritual being who is having a human experience.  Part of my experience is living with FTD.  I do the only thing I am able which is  to tell people about what it is like living with FTD and giving support over the phone, the internet and always in my prayers.

Patient Medical Centered Home Demo


I just read a post titled Patient Medical Centered Home Demo.  This is about redesigning health care groups  with improvements that included same-day appointment scheduling, direct access to some specialists, primary care redesign to enhance care efficiency, variable physician compensation, and an electronic medical record with a patient Web portal to enable patient e-mail, online medication refills, and record review.

It appears that there was some  increased patient and physician satisfaction with this model.

It sounds promising and many services in the model move towards patient centered health care.

Writing a comment to FDA about proposed REMS


I received a response from a post I submitted on Chronic Pain Connection:

FDA REMS Proposal
Karen Lee Richards
Monday, January 18, 2010 at 09:55 PM

I would also encourage you and everyone concerned to write to the FDA.  They are taking comments from the public regarding these proposed REMS until Oct. 10, 2010.  Here’s a link to the FDA announcement.  Toward the bottom of the page of the FDA announcement is a link to their form if you’d like to submit it online and their address if you’d prefer to mail it.

Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies for Certain Opioid Drugs

This will take you to another page where it asks you to choose which document you want to reply to.

Choose FDA and choose public announcements.  There will be several items to choose from.  Select  Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Stategies for Certain Opioid Drugs and then you will be taken to a page where you can place a comment.

If travel worked like health care


I invite you to watch this video on the page : If Travel Worked Like Health Care.

It might help you realize what a tangled web the government and insurance companies conceive when they practice to deceive.

Article on FDA REMS


I just read an article titled ” When Elephants Dance , Ants take a Pounding”.

“On December 4, 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called upon pharmaceutical company representatives to report on their progress in developing a REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy) for extended-release or long-acting opioid analgesic products containing oxycodone, morphine, methadone, and other agents. Concerned about what are perceived as high rates of misuse, abuse, addiction, and overdose with these powerful pain relievers, this is the first time the FDA has demanded a REMS program for an entire class of drugs.”

Many of the drug companies manufacturing the above mentioned narcotics have formed a  Industry Working Group (IWG) to try to deal with the problems of drug abuse  while still trying to assure that people such as chronic pain sufferers will still be able to get the medication they need to function in their every day lives.

The FDA gave these IWG’s little information to form a base to construct a plan even though the IWG members have spent many hours putting together a plan. You can read in the article about the proposed phased in plan

As the article points out, the problems are not with the people who take the prescribed drug but it is a community problem.  No matter what the FDA regulates there is still going to be abuse of “prescription” drugs.  The FDA thinks by keeping doctors from prescribing narcotics with abuse potential that it will stop people who abuse prescription drugs.

Some of these drugs may still be available on the street because of prescription narcotics prescribed overseas.

It is obvious to any thinking person, that people who abuse drugs if they do not have prescription narcotics available will obtain drugs from the “street.”

Some FDA officials have admitted that it is their goal to get doctors to stop prescribing these narcotics period.  They obviously do not care about the thousands of people like me who need narcotics to make their pain manageable so they can live day to day.

These officials have also admitted that it is their plan to put all of us who are prescribed these narcotics into a register and ration the amount of narcotics we receive.

Why, why, why do they want to do this? They have to know that we who responsiblity take narcotics under a doctor’s supervision are not drug abusers.  Or do they?  Have they bought in to the totemism of the “evil’ narcotic so far  that they believe even legitimate narcotic use should be stamped out?

Is it to prove that they have done “something” to address the war on drugs so their funding will be continued?

I have seen so much violation of constitutional individual rights in the past few years, I’m starting to not recognize this country as America, Land of the Free.

What can we do? We can do what our founding fathers afforded us the right to do.  We need to spread the word about what is going on as much as possible and join the consumer movement for health care reform.

We can write to all our congressmen and women and tell them our stories.  Also we can vote people out of office who will not stand up for our constitutional rights.

Even though I have a terminal illness, I for one will not roll over and give up.  Fortunately, there are physician practices and other foundations with strong political backing who are prepared to fight these proposed changes.

I’ve already read so many sad stories about people being undermedicated due to physician fears of governmental retribution.  I understand their fears and concerns, but to stop giving people medication that they need to survive before any action has been taken against their practice is inexcusable.

The DEA did raid doctor’s offices but the numbers were few and most cases were settled out of court.  It was enough to send many doctors rushing away like herd animals.  They should look at what actually going on now, not what they fear may happen.  While they can help people who are in horrible pain they should remember their oath and not turn people away who are in agonizing pain.

I believe physicians should stand by their patients and face what is coming together.  I still see humanity in some physician’s practices and I am old enough to remember when caring for the patient was the primary focus of the physician.

We need strong minded compassionate people in the medical field.  This is another reason why I believe that the best model for health care reform in a consumer based movement.  We have a right to good quality of care.

I let myself for a minute imagine the post apocalyptic world for chronic pain patients that would exist if the FDA is allowed to intact their plans.

Thousands of  people who suffer from chronic pain and chronic illnesses will be having to make life and death decisions.  Such actions would force those of us who chose to live and carry on with their responsibilities to seek our narcotics from an illegal market who would be more than willing to welcome us into its clutches.

Those without money to pay for these narcotics might be forced to do things that actual junkies do not because we wanted to get high but to survive.

Is that what the government wants, to send thousands more consumers into the illegal drug market?

Hopefully, it won’t come to this.  As I said, I do see promising signs that physicians and organizations are joining force to keep this legislation from being acted upon.

If you want to read more information on guidelines that the FDA is using to define chronic pain and treatment of chronic pain with narcotics see  The National Clearinghouse Guidelines, Managing chronic non-terminal pain including prescribing controlled substances.

I also want to remind readers that I do have another blog that I am starting.  It is called The Professional Patient.

The Patients’ right to their medical records


I’ve clearly stated my views previously that I believe that patients should have full access to their medical records.  Yesterday I read an interesting article, Patients Demand, “Give us our damned data.”

The first story in the article talks about a woman whose husband was transferred from one hospital to the other.  She had to run back to get his medical records from the first hospital so that he could get adequate pain relief.  The second hospital refused to give him pain medicine until they received his records from the first hospital.  Most people would assume that the staff from the first hospital could fax the records over to the other hospital but that isn’t the way things work.  The system for retrieval of medical records is broken and it long overdue to be fixed.

I have said before that I have a degree in Health Information Management.  Once upon a time having been a supervisor and then a department director of a medical record department, I saw how hard it was to keep track of medical records.  The strangest place I ever heard where some lost records in Texas were found was in the trunk of a medical resident’s care in Florida.

As described in the article there are other reasons for patients not being given their medical records.  When I left the field of information management, only two hospitals in the state had electronic medical records.

It does not look like things have gotten much better.  In many hospitals,  only parts of the record are converted into an electronic medium.  During my stays in the hospital as a patient, I saw nurses typing and clicking boxes online, then writing the same information in two different places.

I was in the hospital for a month with a deep venous thrombosis and by the end of my stay, despite their electronic checklists, they still didn’t have my medication correctly scheduled.

What happens when you are discharged from the hospital or you are seeing a physician at their office and you ask to receive a copy of your medical records?

As Ms. Cohen states in her article, there are federal laws that guarantee patients the right to their medical records.  This does not mean that patients will receive complete copies of their medical records in a timely fashion.

If you try to obtain your medical records of a recent hospital admission, you will be directed to the medical records department.  But as it is explained in the article, a clerk might tell you that you can’t have your records because they are not complete. They have usually 30 days to provide you with the medical record.  As the article says, if you need the records more quickly because you or your loved ones are in another hospital, have the attending physician request the records.  Hospital staff usually complies to requests when a patient has been readmitted to a hospital.  But, unfortunately, sometimes hospitals do not get the records in a timely fashion to the other facility.

I’ve been behind the scenes.  They aren’t lying when they say the record is not completed.  Many records come down from the floor without signed orders, without discharge summaries because the doctor has failed to dictate them yet or perhaps the record is still in processing and it hasn’t been put in proper order and not all reports have been filed into the record.  But after 30 days, it is reasonable to expect that the records should be complete.

Often the clerk will suggest if the record is incomplete that if you fill out a request for the medical records and write down the doctor they need to be sent to, they will send a copy of the records they have to the doctor who needs to see them.

If the clerk is able to make a copy of your medical record then you will be charged a fee.  After all it cost money to make copies (not as much as they charge but of course you have to figure in employee time, etc.)

When you try to obtain copies of medical records, you soon get the feeling that perhaps they don’t want you to have them.  That feeling you have is correct.  Hospitals and doctors always point the finger of privacy regarding medical records.  Afterall, they are trying to protect your records from falling into the wrong hands.  But, these are your hands you say.  What better hands to hold my record than my own? True, but doctors and hospitals really would you rather not have the information.  There may be something in the record that you may “misunderstand” to be a medical error.

Also if your record has been flagged because it is under review for anything such as utilization of services, quality of care or especially any possible litigation, you will be told that your record is not available to be copied at the time you request it.

What can you do?  As mentioned in the article there are many complaints to the Department of Health and Human Services.  What can they do? Not much.

The even more difficult records that you may need to obtain are the records from your physician’s office.  It is standard practice for office staff not to allow you to have copies of your records.  They will tell you it is their policy to only forward records to another doctor.

What you must do is find out the laws in your state regarding your rights to your medical record.  The laws vary from state to state and as  Ms. Cohen points out, some states grant you less access to your medical records than federal laws allow.

Once you know what rights you have to your record if the doctor’s office or hospital refuses to give you a copy of your record, then it would be a good idea to print out the law of your state regarding patient’s rights to their medical records.  You can usually find this information by googling laws in your state.  If you can’t find it, there should be a number that you can call listed on a state’s web page or call your local library.

After you have printed out the information, then “politely” demand the right to your records. As Ms. Cohen says, you may have to get “mean.”

As I stated above, your record may be flagged because it is to be reviewed by a committee for possible misuntilitization of services or a medical staff error involving your care.

I was admitted to the ER and overdosed with anti-emetics which caused me to come back to the hospital having major spasms and tremors.  We made a complaint to the hospital and I was not initially given access to my medical records until after we went to a scheduled meeting with an administrator in which he graciously apologized.

You may not even know a mistake has been made.  Hospitals are required to perform reviews on some  records in which they find “medical mistakes” even if there was no adverse outcome to the patient.   So you may not even know there was a mistake.  If you receive a vague answer as to why you cannot receive your regards according to federal and state laws then I suggest you keep going up the chain of command until you find someone who is willing to discuss why your record is not available.  If you have to make an appointment with an administrator so be it.  Also, in the case, the squeaky wheel theory does apply.

As for physician’s records, you may have done everything you possible can do to get your entire medical record and you may only end up getting a few pages of records.  This is because the doctor doesn’t really want to give you anything and you can’t prove what was in the record and what was not.  The main thing I am interested in when I obtain physician’s records is a summary of the visits and copies of all tests.

I thought when I had to leave the health care profession 13 years ago that by now physician’s offices and hospitals would surely have complete electronic medical records. I read the other day on average many states only have 13% of their medical records converted to entire medical records.

There are many reasons for this such as lack of doctor cooperation, hospitals having many different computers that can’t communicate with each other etc.  Physicians with office practices complain that it is too expensive to convert their medical records to electronic form but they really haven’t looked at all the possibilities.

There have been models of patient centered care in which the patient owns his or her complete electronic medical record and is able to carry it with them on a thumb drive.  The patient is in charge of their own records and can give information to who they want to give information to when they want to.  The results are promising.  Patients feel much more empowered as a team player in their medical care.

The government says that all medical records will have to be converted to an electronic form by 2014.  I hope that before then this growing grass roots movement of consumer based health care will direct that electronic medical records are a necessity and that everyone should have access to their medical record at all times.

Data that will be able to be generated by web based software from electronic medical records will help patients and doctors to be able to come to the right diagnosis quicker and provide information for the best paths for treatment.  This information will also show patterns in the way hospitals and doctors practice medicine and then people will be able to truly find the right doctor to provide the best diagnosis and treatment for their illness.

I suggest you watch this video  on this page: The Quantified Patient. One man talks about his journey obtaining medical information and treatment for his kidney cancer.

American Values and Health Care Reform


I just read an article about American Values and Health Care Reform and it inspired me to express my views about topics mentioned in this article.

The article is written by Thomas H. Murray, Ph.D.

He says “Most thoughtful Americans would have something meaningful to say about the values we should choose for the foundation of our system of health care. And by focusing on these fundamental considerations, perhaps we can deepen and broaden the discussion of values and public policy.”

First he discusses “liberty,” which I agree should be a value and a right we have regarding health care reform.  He mentions that this  includes” the freedom to choose a physician and the freedom for physicians to choose their practice setting and patients.”  I would go further to say that physicians should have the freedom to practice medicine in the best way possible to assure quality of care.  So many physicians are constrained now by insurance companies and governmental regulations that affect the way they practice medicine.

Examples of this are physicians who feel  like they have to practice defensive medicine because they are worried about liability.  This has lead to some group physicians practices looking at each patient as whether they might be a liability to their practice.  I experienced the outcome of this practice myself.  I found a young female physician who promised she would stick by me as long as it took to find out what was wrong with me.

I came to a follow-up appointment to find that she had already discharged me from her care.  She told me that she did not know what I was doing there because she had made it clear to me on the last visit that I should go to Johns Hopkins and she was discharging me from care.  I was very ill and I burst into tears and told her I knew that had not happened.  She confided in me that she had presented my case in a weekly case discussion, hoping to get feedback from other more experienced doctors.  She was told to “get rid of me,” and that I was too much of a liability to the practice.

Others such as doctors who treat people with chronic pain are wrapped in bureaucratic tape due to previous actions by the DEA and REM’s instituted by the FDA for narcotics that take away the freedom to prescribe medications for the maximum benefit of the patient.  Any chronic pain patient can tell you about the infamous “pain contract” with doctors and the hoops we are forced to jump through to obtain our medicine.

Dr. Murray discusses, ” Under our current system, a young entrepreneur with a brilliant idea for a new business, a creative vision that can create jobs and wealth, can’t necessarily follow that vision: if this person has a job at a large firm that provides good health insurance and has a child or a spouse with a chronic illness, the aspiring entrepreneur’s freedom to pursue his or her dream is severely limited by the “job lock” imposed by our current patchwork of health insurance.”

I’ve had personal experience regarding this situation when I was younger.  My former husband was self-employed.  I  had a few opportunities to get in on the ground floor of a start up coding consultant companies that began to flourish in the late 80’s, but I couldn’t even consider it because I had pre-existing health conditions that would have made it impossible for us to buy individual health insurance at a reasonable price.

Mycurrent  husband and I have constantly had to worry about insurance coverage since I have become ill. Due to the contract nature of his work at times, the actual company he has worked for sometimes hasn’t provided insurance. There was a stretch of time in which we were paying over $2000 dollars a month just for prescriptions.

Despite the fact that I have a terminal illness, I still haven’t been able to qualify for disability.  I’m about to talk to another attorney  about the possibility but due to SSI’s policy of giving strong consideration for disability regarding evidence of disability in my medical records for the first three years after I became unemployed, I have not been able to qualify because  I was first disabled due to a complex regional pain syndrome and we saw many physicians until 2003 when it was fianlly diagnosed.  This is an example of governmental involvement in health care benefits.

Dr. Murray also discusses values such as  justice and fairness, responsibility, medical progress, privacy, and physician integrity.    Should every American be required to participate in health insurance?  I have a problem when lower middle class and middle class people are going to be forced to buy health care insurance when they are already being taxed for Medicare and Medicaid.  Where is the extra money for premiums supposed to come from?  Many families have at least one spouse who is out of work.  The poverty line is around $11,000.  There is no significant special funded provided in this bill for middle class families.

Dr. Murray writes, “What are our obligations to ensure that the resources devoted to health care will be used wisely? Will a universal health care system provide for appropriate utilization of services while ensuring quality of care of all patients.?”  If you look at most universal health care plans adopted by other countries, quality of care has suffered dramatically.  Patients have to wait months to see specialists or to have surgery.

Two years ago, I had a large deep venous thrombosis and was in the hospital for a month.  I read posts by people in the U.K.  and other countries that were still having complications from their DVT after two years.  Some of them were still waiting to have surgery.

Dr. Murray discusses The Emergency Medical Treatment Act  which requires that emergency rooms provide treatment without regard to ability to pay. Have we done enough with our health care system to provide for human decency when as Dr. Murray states, ” According to the Institute of Medicine,20,000 people a year die for want of health insurance. Thus, one of the key challenges of health care reform is to make certain that appropriate care is available to every member of our community when needed.”

What is the definition of appropriate care?  With the current health care system many people do not receive appropriate care.  The problem with Universal Health Care is that “appropriate care” only means that everyone has access to care.  This country already has a shortage of doctors and with the initiation of Universal Health Care many doctors will abandon ship.  This will leave physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide for much of primary health care given to patients.  They will be overworked  and underpaid.  There will also be a shortage of people who want to work in a system where there are long lines of sick patients to take care of and low wages for their efforts.

Also, specialists will be more scarce and to try to save money, the healthcare system will prevent patients from seeing specialists as much as possible.

If you don’t believe me, read stories of chronically ill patients who have tried to receive good health care through HMO’s.  If you are a healthy person, HMO’s work wonderfully.  You only need to see a primary care physician and there is little out of cost expense for preventative medicine.  Chronically ill patients and patients who are seriously ill cost the system more money.

I use to review records for quality of care in HMO’s and I saw many cases of primary care physicians or usually a physician assistant or nurse practitioner putting off appointments for patients to get in to see a specialist.  Also, abnormal test results were often overlooked and not discovered until two or three visits later.  You will see with any program of universal health care that health care must be rationed so expense procedures and tests will often be delayed.

Dr Murray states, “But if everyone is to receive care when it is needed, fairness and responsibility also require that everyone participate in financing it. In its 1993 report, “Genetic Information and Health Insurance,”4 a task force of the Human Genome Project’s Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues Working Group proposed the concept of universal participation. Insurers who recoiled at the idea of universal access accepted universal participation as a legitimate goal. To them, universal access meant that healthy people could skate along without paying any premiums — until they got sick, at which point insurers would have a legal obligation to enroll them and pay their medical bills.”

Everyone can see the obvious problems that arise with that system.  Dr. Murray continues, ” Only people who expect to file insurance claims would voluntarily buy policies. A policy of universal participation eliminates adverse selection. And “universal participation” is a more accurate and inclusive term than “universal mandate,” which addresses only the individual’s obligation, not the national commitment to assuring that care will be available when and where it is needed.”

Len Nichols, director of the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation, recently invoked the Old Testament in discussing stewardship. ” When food is more than sufficient to feed all, allowing some people to starve is indecent and represents a failure to live up to universal moral duties.Dr. Murray writes “To Nichols, the principle concerning the availability of food in Leviticus should be applied to health care today: just as the gleaners of Leviticus should not starve, so people in need of basic, effective health care should not be allowed to suffer and die. Stewardship requires us to be mindful of the basic needs of others and of the power and responsibility we have to use the resources in our control to meet those needs.”

He says “Stewardship therefore requires that we pay scrupulous attention to quality, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness — or value, to use the market’s sense of the term. The evidence that we do not get good value for our money — that our health outcomes fall far short of those in many other countries, that regional variations in expenses do not track variations in quality, that our hospitals too often fail to ensure consistent adherence to practices known to enhance quality (such as hand washing) — is overwhelming. Everyone entrusted with the leadership of our health care institutions and with the allocation of our health care dollars has an obligation to be a thoughtful steward of those scarce resources.”

Will the government be able to initiate such programs to ensure quality of care? As I have stated before, there was  a program the government initiated through the Health Care Financing Administration that contracted a company that I worked for to do “peer review” screening of Medicare, Medicaid patients  by reviewing their medical records for proper utilization of services, proper coding of diagnoses to insure accurate billing and most importantly screening for quality of care issues.

I pre-screened these records for physicians and then the physician would review the records with potential problems.  In many ways the program fell short. Within the 10 year period that records were reviewed, fewer and fewer records were selected due to budget constraints and pressure from lobbyists.  I believe the fact that the program  existed did improve over all utilization of services and quality of care in hospitals.  Unfortunately, the government abandoned the program.

Also, very few physicians or hospitals were actual sanctioned at the state level even though some major patterns of poor quality of care were found.  Also, results of these studies as well as any quality review that hospitals and physicians do within their hospitals and practices are “protected” from public viewing.

The rationale behind this practice is that physicians or hospitals would unfairly be targeted due to unavoidable mistakes and that if results were given to the public, doctors and allied health care personnel would be less likely to participate in quality review.

First of all, I think participation in quality review should be mandatory.  The patient is being provided a service.  Therefore they are the true customer and deserve to receive information regarding performance standards.  Too many doctors and hospitals mistakenly think that the insurance company is their customer because that is who pays them.

Physicians say that practicing medicine is different from any other service such as providing tax information, car repair, etc. but the fact that they do provide a service to their customer, the patient, should allow for patients to be given information about quality of services so they know who may be able to best serve them.

I don’t think physicians should be penalized for every mistake they make but as baby boomers are getting older, I believe they would demand the same kind of service that they have come to expect in other areas.

I think that it will take a long time to  enact universal health care.  The government is trying to plan it so the entire universal health care program is not actually enacted until after the election of 2012.  But, I think people are already being fed up  by governmenal interferance and will not welcome even by preliminary actions because the country is in such a difficult mess as it is.

Dr. Murray states, “The bill likely to emerge from Congress will probably do a better job of moving us toward universal participation than of ensuring proper stewardship of our health care resources.”    Perhaps, repitition of services can be eliminated.  That contributes in a major way to cost of health care.  “Proper stewradship of health care resources?  I seriously doubt that will happen with a federally governmentally run health care system for reasons I have explained above.  Also, consider all the bureaucracy that comes with governemental intervention, constitutional issues and the program being able to work with state laws regarding health care.

It will be a very interesting endevor.

Forcing people to buy healthcare insurance


Today I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about forcing people to pay for insurance coverage. See the following article:,0,3694244.story

Any time the government starts requiring people to buy health insurance coverage I am afraid that we are heading down a slippery slope.  As the article discusses you run into the problem of young healthy people having to pay for elderly people who are sicker as well as people who have chronic illnesses who use more health care resources.

The problem is with governmental involvement as we’ve already seen with Medicare and Medicaid, is that everyone who is working has to already pay higher taxes to keep these programs going.

Low middle-income to middle-class income families are already feeling like they are overtaxed for existing programs.  To ask these people who are getting by day by day to pay for mandated insurance coverage in addition to taxes they already pay for existing programs is going to reduce the amount of money consumers have to pay for goods and services that drive the economy.

The government proposes that perhaps young healthier people would be able to pay lower premiums that would provide less coverage. That still doesn’t answer the problem for these families when someone in their family has a major illness.

If these people are still paying taxes for existing programs and having to pay for the healthcare mandated insurance premium where are they going to get the money to pay for healthcare expenses that are not covered by their policy?

Also, every time the government gets involved in any industry the people end up having to pay more money for all  the added bureaucracy that goes along with governmental involvement.  Red tape includes additional staffing to deal with paperwork required by the federal government and additional people to oversee the people who deal with red tape and paperwork. It’s a never-ending cycle of waste and confusion.

Considering my experience with working in the healthcare industry and also working for a company that contracted with HCFA in addition to my struggle in finding treatment for my illnesses, I feel that the government should be kept  out of the healthcare industry as much as possible.

For example, one reason the government and insurance companies became involved in the way that doctors practice medicine was because of the cost of lengthy inpatient hospital stays.  So the government started requiring hospitals to discharge Medicare and Medicaid patients within preset time limits. These limits were based on guidelines set by predetermined diagnosis related groupings based on the diagnosis of the patient including comorbid conditions.

Unfortunately, this reduced the quality of care received by some patients. This required the government to add additional expenses to the taxpayer to fund peer-reviewed organizations to monitor quality of care that patients received.

The cost of care was then shifted to outpatient care.  The intention was to reduce healthcare costs. Due to the fact that patients go to see different healthcare providers for different health problems,  tests are duplicated at each health care provider that the patient sees.

Insurance companies followed this practice.  So, instead of bringing the patient into the hospital and having several specialists see the patient during the hospital stay and then being discharged. Patients go from provider to provider where tests are duplicated and there is no continuity of care.

I can say from my own experience as a patient having complicated GI symptoms, that I spent years going from doctor to doctor trying to find out what was wrong.  Even when the doctor admitted me to the hospital, he or she did not call in life specialist to get to the bottom of what was wrong with me.

Instead, each doctor repeated the same lab tests and C.T. scans every time I went to see a different doctor.

A big problem is that there is no centralized medical record containing the patient’s history.  I think this problem could be solved by a service that would provide the healthcare consumer with an ongoing copy of their electronic medical record put onto a disc that the doctor could insert into his computer.  That would provide an updated history and test results for the patient. The doctor then would not have to waste the time and money going over histories and ordering additional tests.

I believe the key to successful healthcare reform would be a consumer driven healthcare system that allowed doctors to practice medicine the way medicine should be practiced.  If the consumer was made aware of all the information in the record and the doctor acted as an advocate to help the patient understand any question the patient might have about their healthcare, this would decrease this communication and misunderstandings that increase the cost of health care.

Once information was invited to the consumer, it would be in the doctor’s best interest to provide good-quality of care to the patient. There would also be an incentive for providers to reduce cost of care.  This incentive would come from the knowledge that patients had of care that was being provided them by health care providers.

The outdated model of doctors keeping information from their patients in the best interests of the patient is outdated. People are use to seeking information from the Internet and with the consumer driven movement of healthcare announced enough resources would be available to help the patient understand the care that they are receiving.

Visit with FTD Research Specialist


Monday, at 8 a.m. sharp I arrived at the office of a physician who does research in FTD.  Selchietracker as always my faithful companion accompanied me.  The physician’s office is affiliated with a local medical school.  I had been to other clinics in this medical school for various reasons and not been satisfied with the physician’s diagnosis and/or treatment.

I was willing to give this physician a chance.  He had been recommended by a person at National Conference for FTD which Selchietracker attended a few months ago.

After we were escorted to his office and we met the doctor, the first thing I realized was that I had met him before.  I had worked in the local medical community for several years dealing with many physicians so I assume that I have met him somehow in that capacity.

Unfortunately, because we are in transition and about to move again, Selchietracker could not locate the disc which contained my MRI film at the last-minute when we were walking out the door.  He did bring documentation from a doctor who diagnosed me at Johns Hopkins as well as the results of the MRI and other tests as well as her conclusion and findings.

He asked us what we wanted from him, confirmation of diagnosis? Did we seek  treatment options-he quickly answered there was no treatment, or  he asked, did we need further information?

Selch explained that we would like to identify what strain of FTD I might have and find out further information about research trials, etc.

First the doctor bragged about  their extensive collection of autopsy slides for FTD patients.  Apparently they have the largest number of autopsy slides for FTD in the country.  Well that was okay but not very helpful to me since I am still the walking wounded.

Next, he put me through a battery of neuropsychiatric evaluations.  Any of you who have had to do these tests or watch your loved one with FTD complete these tests know that it is no fun to not remember simple words.  I especially fear the dreaded count back in 7’s from 100.  I can never get past the first few, major mental block.  Or the pictures you are required to draw of the connecting shapes and a three dimensional square.  My pathetic attempt looked like the work of a three-year old and to add insult to injury, he told me he was labeling my work with my name.  Come on, enough of kindergarten.

Then he did the usual neuro exam.  I know the drill well.  I could probably perform the exam blindfolded without the assistance of the doctor.  Of course, nothing wrong there except his breath.  I do wish doctors would check their breath before approaching a patient.  There is nothing like being poked and prodded and having to hold your nose.

After the exam, we discussed my history of symptoms.  He asked a few appropriate questions.  Then came the true test. What about my behavior?  Selch proudly proclaimed that despite my other symptoms commonly associated with FTD including apathy towards activities of daily living , that I was still a compassionate person who understood the affects of my illness.

Despite the fact that the physician had not reviewed my MRI and did have ample evidence from a doctor from Johns Hopkins who specializes in FTD that I did have FTD,  he proclaimed I did not have FTD because my behavior was not appropriate.

Because of my problems and reactions to nightmares, he conceded that I did probably have Lewy bodies.

For a brief description about Lewy bodies see:

For more information about Lewy bodies and FTD see:

Selch explained to the doctor that there is a variant of FTD that has Lewy bodies.

The doctor stubbornly remarked that he had seen thousands of FTD patients (FTD is supposed to be still considered rare and it isn’t as if he is attached to a major FTD clinic, so did he mean thousands of live people or thousands of autopsy slides that he mentioned previously) and every single one of them male and female had a history of acting out and not understanding anything about their illness.

I told him that I could produce six people diagnosed with FTD who are able to attend a weekly chat and discuss their disease process.

He gave no response.

So, he wished us luck and suggested we send  him a copy of my MRI.  I think we will be heading to greener pastures.  We are moving closer to a well-known clinic for FTD patients so I think we will continue down the yellow brick road to meet Oz.

Because, because of the wonderful things a good physician does, like PET scans, etc.

I realize the best way to get a functional MRI,more complex scans  or trial treatment is to be enrolled in a study.  Am I willing to be a guinea pig?  I’ve been poked, prodded, scanned, panned, scoped, doped and have never lost hope since I was a small child.

I still firmly believe that there are many others like me that are out there but they haven’t been diagnosed.  Most neurologists don’t know much about FTD.  If depression and anxiety are the first features, then the patient is likely to do a lot of couch time.  I went to many doctors for many years before a doctor discovered that I had a complex regional pain syndrome, with a domino effect other diagnoses fell into line .

I was diagnosed with FTD because of Selch’s practice of smoothly prodding doctors to order tests needed to evaluate my condition.  Also, we have learned when presented with an abnormal lab result or other abnormal finding that cannot quickly be explained away, we will seek multiple consultations until we are satisfied with a diagnosis or have reached a temporary point where we have to stop until other doors open up in the future.

I love when we go to Manhattan to see one of my doctors.  While we are on the streets and Selch is rolling my wheelchair down the uneven sidewalks ,I always see someone with a poster that proclaims one thing or another.  I also think of those comedians who say, “Here’s Your Sign” and “You might be a redneck if…”.  I imagine rolling around holding a poster that says IF YOU HAVE THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS YOU MIGHT HAVE FTD SO GET HELP NOW WHILE YOU STILL HAVE A LIFE TO LIVE.

Instead I remain in my “sick” recliner, preaching to the choir.  Maybe, someday, somewhere, someone will find me.

Opioid Treatment and the Chronic Pain Patient


Today I read the following post

Long-Term Opioid Therapy – What Are the Effects?

Most people who need to take opioids on a long-term basis for chronic non-cancer pain are understandably concerned about what kind of effect it will have on them.  Many have mistakenly believed that opioids destroy both the body and the brain – and possibly even shorten lives.  Although pain management experts have long contended that opioid therapy is not dangerous when properly administered, until now there has been no actual research on long-term opioid use (10 years or more) to back them up.

Enter Forest Tennant, MD, who undertook a first-of-its-kind research study evaluating chronic pain patients who had been receiving opioid therapy for 10 to 35 years.  The results of his study should be extremely encouraging for patients who need long-term opioid therapy as well as their doctors, some of whom may have been hesitant about it.  Tennant concluded that the significant improvements in quality of life and physical functioning from opioid therapy are so positive they outweigh any negative complications, which can be easily managed.

Research Methods

Tennant’s study looked at 16 female and 8 male chronic pain patients between 30 and 79 years of age.  Their chronic pain conditions were:

Neuropathies and Arthropathies – 29.2%
Spinal Degeneration – 25%
Abdominal Adhesions or nNeuropathies – 20.8%
Fibromyalgia – 12.5%
Headache – 8.3%
Hip Necrosis –4.2%

The subjects had all been receiving continuous opioid therapy for 10 to 35 years.  All were taking a long-acting form of morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl or methadone and one or more short-acting opioids for breakthrough pain or pain flares.  They all also took additional medications such as muscle relaxants, sleep aids, hormone replacements and dietary supplements.

Study Results

Almost all of the patients (22 of 24) said their pain had permanently decreased over time.  And the vast majority (20 of 24) felt their opioids still provided the same relief as when they started treatment.  All of the patients  reported one or more functions or activities they can do now that they couldn’t do prior to beginning opioid therapy (i.e., get out of bed everyday, take walks, shop or visit friends).

Several new medical conditions developed in the group over the 10+ year period, such as hormone abnormalities, weight gain, tooth decay, tachycardia, hypertension, osteoporosis, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes.  There was no clear way to determine whether these conditions were caused by the pain, the opioid therapy, the natural aging process, or were just inherent in the patients; however, all of the conditions could easily be medically managed.

All but one of the males in the study experienced lowered serum testosterone, a known complication of opioid therapy, which can be controlled by hormone replacement therapy.

Notably, there were no neurologic complications including dementia, hyperalgesia, tremor or seizures.  Nor were there any liver, kidney, or gastrointestinal complications, except for minor constipation.

Rather than causing serious health problems, Tennant suggests that because of the decrease in pain, opioids may actually allow or even promote neurologic healing.  He goes on to suppose that opioid therapy may prevent a number of medical complications of pain and also may prevent early death due to the over-stimulation of the pituitary-adrenal-axis or possibly electrical stimulation produced by damaged nerves.  Tennant acknowledges that this is a small study and states that much additional study is needed to determine cause and effect of medical conditions in opioid-maintained patients.

Finally, Tennant concludes, “Even though the number of patients evaluated here is relatively small, the great improvement in their quality of life and physical functioning is so positive and the complications of the therapy so easily managed that long-term opioid therapy should continue to be provided and evaluated.”  End of article

I wish this information was more readily available to patients who are considering pursuing opiate treatment for their pain as well as to provide correct information about narcotics to the general public.  Physicians are using many different types of medications to treat chronic pain disorders and some of them have shown promise in treating chronic pain.  What many people don’t realize is that many of these other medications have more side effects and medication interactions than narcotics.

Opiates are still a main stay of treatment for chronic pain patients and there are good reasons for this.  Although opiates have become a totum of evil due to a  massive media push claiming that opiates  by their very existence have caused a rise in prescription drug abuse.  Opiates of themselves are not evil and it is more of a reflection of the culture, change in family dynamics etc. that are the cause for a “rise” in drug abuse involving prescription narcotics.  This phenoma is not because of sudden lax rules in prescribing narcotics by physicians or not the fact that narcotic prescriptions are on the rise.

When I think about when I was growing up in the 70’s, doctors were more lax about prescribing narcotics then and narcotics were available.  There is a rise of availability of narcotics strictly due to their illegal status because the illegal drug business is profitable.  Perhaps because of the constant portrayal of street drugs as “evil” more people have taken to “abusing” prescription pain medication because it seems more socially acceptable and the product received in deemed to be safer.  Narcotics are not harmful to patients who take them as prescribed under a doctor’s supervision. There has been no study that proves that long-term narcotic use is harmful to the patient’s internal organs.  Studies actually show more damage to patient organs from continuation of chronic pain.  New studies involving chronic pain show that it is different from acute pain and the result of continuing chronic pain can have a devastating effect on the mental and physical well-being of a person.

The truth is that thousands of people suffer from chronic pain and bad media press, increased governmental regulation and shift of  the War on Drugs to prescription medication  has made it more difficult for patients who suffer from chronic pain to receive the treatment they need to deal with their illness.

Insulin is not with held from diabetics and so in the same way opiates should not be with held from patients who suffer from chronic pain.

Because narcotics have received such a bad rap, it is hard for people who do not have chronic pain or are an advocate for a loved one or person that has chronic pain to understand that receiving narcotics under a doctor’s supervision does not equal drug abuse.  Any person who has chronic pain and takes narcotics will eventually become physically dependent on the medication.  It may surprise people to know that many other drugs cause dependency such as anti depressants.  That is why doctors are careful to wean their patients off of anti depressants.  If you do not believe that withdrawal occurs for these patients, then talk to a few people who have been on a certain antidepressant for a long time and went off of the medication cold turkey.

Drug dependency does not equal addiction.  Addiction requires a psychological craving for the drug and most people who take opioids as prescribed do not develop a psychological dependence.  Many doctors have confused a patient’s request for a higher level of pain medication as drug seeking behavior when it is actually a sign that the patient’s pain is not under control.

The War On Drugs for all its good intentions has not reduced the amount of illegal drug traffic.  It has created many jobs for people in law enforcement, courts and the prison system.  But, the government still has the same problem that they had when they tried to prohibit alcohol.  People want to be able to use these substances as they do alcohol and nothing the government can do will decrease that desire. I am not saying that making all drug use legal will solve all problems regarding drug abuse.  I do not know if that would be possible in our society.  By criminalizing drug use  criminal industries will naturally look to drugs as a way to obtain profit just as they did when there was a prohibition on alcohol.

For the War on Drugs to work, people would have to change their minds about the way they feel about their personal right to use what substances they desire in their daily life.  The media wants everyone to believe that if the government did not “control” drug use that there would be a massive apocalyptic  like wave of drugged out zombies who would destroy everything near and dear to the law-abiding citizen’s heart.  The problem with this is that there just isn’t any proof that this would be so.

I’ve seen recent so called documentaries about the plight of opium addicted women and children flooding the plains of the U.S. as pioneers progressed towards unclaimed country in the 19th and early 20th century.  Yes people did become physically addicted to opium and cocaine.  Also, snake oil salesmen sold products to people that could harm or even kill them.  It was the original intent of the FDA to protect people from falling prey to these snake oil salesmen. The truth is when almost anyone who likes to do genealogy  searches for information about ancestors such as Great Uncle Grover or Great Grandmother Pearl, they usually find brief accounts of  people struggling to survive on the farm or ranch mixed with amusing anecdotes.  Rarely, does anyone find personal accounts recalling tales of long-suffering drug addiction and family interventions among the common folks.

Those heart breaking accounts of families being torn apart by drug abuse and painful intervention are recent occurrences are certainly real ,but they  have been mined by the media to feed the habit of the general population for reality based television.

I’m not saying that substance abuse isn’t a problem.  I am saying that things shouldn’t have gotten  to the point that the government has become so involved the Drug War that regulations and red tape are surrounding chronic pain patients and their doctors, causing doctors to practice defensive medicine and keep many chronic pain patients from having a decent quality of life.

How has it happened that there is much more government interference in the way that physicians practice medicine in regard to prescribing narcotics?  The DEA, not having much success in winning the War on Drugs, in my opinion  has switched to softer targets.  Because when it comes down to it in any law enforcement situation be it convictions by the district attorney or tickets written by the police, numbers count.  High numbers of convictions or in the case of the DEA, documentation that they are making a difference in decreasing the business of “illegal drug use”  means success and more funding.

The following is a policy statement issued by the DEA regarding the wonderful ways they are changing regulations to protect against drug abuse of prescription pain medications and how their new regulations actually make it easier for the doctor to prescribe schedule II narcotics to the patient.  Also, they mention according to their statistics they really haven’t reprimanded very many doctors and so their impact of pursuing doctor’s in their medical practices is small.  It is explained at the following site

Many physicians and advisors in the health care industry are concerned these acts by the DEA may only be window dressing in light of  tougher regulations  proposed by the FDA.

The real story is that new FDA regulations include the possibility of requiring doctors and allied health personnel to take special training classes for each scheduled narcotic  they provide that is on the government’s list.  See regarding the possible future and scope of this training.   News about further requirements from the FDA on this matter are supposed to be published today, December 4, 2009.  I have also read in various blogs that the DEA has a future proposal in which they would take the list of patients who receive schedule II narcotics and ration the amount of medication that they may receive.  The very thought horrifies me.

Now I will talk about doctors doing “business as usual” with the DEA.  The DEA since the 90’s has taken the bold step of raiding doctor’s offices where they suspect illegal drug trafficking. There were some actual “pill mills” but those were disposed of quickly and easily. It is true that the DEA has not raided “many” physician’s offices but they took pains to raid doctor’s offices in a way to make an example to other physicians.  They first selected small and rural physician practices in which physicians prescribed “a more than average” amount of pain medications.  I am not just talking about time released scheduled narcotics but narcotics such as Lortab and Percocet as well.

A family practice doctor in a rural community may look like he or she is prescribing “more” narcotics but actually he or she is seeing the same patients more often over a life time so if the doctor had several elderly patients with chronic pain conditions, it would appear he or she was prescribing more narcotics than the average physician.

The tactics of the DEA actually would appear silly in their draconian nature if the results of their actions were not so sad.  They have targeted certain physician practices as described above.  They are already provided with lists of patients who have narcotic prescriptions filled, as well as what pharmacy the prescriptions were filled,  by what physician and when the prescriptions were filled.  With this information, they were able to do routine background checks on patients as well as find patterns of any patient who had narcotics filled at different pharmacies, by different doctors within a certain period of time.

Any patients of the doctor’s practice that the feds intended to review who  had a history of drug related violations or had patterns indicating “doctor shopping” for narcotics were contacted by the feds.  The feds threatened prosecution of various drug offenses and offered “deals” to these patients if they would “rat” on their physicians.  Ratting met anything from simple statements that the doctors provided them a prescription for narcotics to confessions that the doctor had actually known about their drug history and “drug shopping” activities an chose to ignore it when giving them a narcotic prescription.

A doctor can be very prudent in his practice and still not know about a patient’s drug history, recreational drug abuse or “doctor shopping” involving other doctors because they only know what patients are willing to tell them.  Most doctors if they suspect a history of drug abuse or “doctor shopping” will take appropriate measures in dealing with these type of patient.  There is no reason to think that any prudent businessman wouldn’t do so and especially doctors who have taken an oath to practice medicine.   Yes, the primary focus of many doctors has leaned towards  financial advancement.  With Medicare fraud, regulations by insurance companies and new Joint Commission requirements, doctors are not going to risk their practice by prescribing narcotics to people who they know would abuse them.

After the DEA obtained information about certain patients and “confessions”, they would approce the doctors with the evidence and ask them if they would prefer to settle out of court or face a public jury trial.

Most doctor’s settled out of court and were given reprimands.  Those brave courageous doctors who chose to fight the good fight and bring their case to court found themselves confronted with over eager district attorneys who were willing to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law and beyond.  Most of these doctors lost their medical practices and their licenses.  Many chronic pain patients who lived in small communities were stranded without a way to obtain more pain medication.  Other doctors in the area were certainly not going to run the risk of their fellow fallen physician.

Word soon spread to other physicians across the country.  This caused a wide spread panic among physicians.  Some general practitioners and even pain specialists decided to get out of the business of prescribing opioids.  Other pain management doctors consulted their lawyers and started enforcing strict guidelines for their patients to follow if the patient wanted to continue opioid treatment.  The first things to arrive were physician patient pain contracts.  Patients had to sign lengthy documents in which they promised to be willing to undergo random drug testing, not to engage in any recreational drug use, to inform the doctor if they received any pain medications by any other physicians.  Any means all pain medicines down to a lortab given to you by your dentist after a dental procedure.

These rules were up to interpretations by the doctor.  Some doctors did as a paper exercise but some doctors used the pain contract to engage on some kind of power trip.  I don’t know if they were seduced by power or extremely paranoid but I have read multiple cases of patients being discharged because they did not inform the physician before they took a pain pill prescribed to them by their dentists and when they mentioned it off handedly to the nurse during the next appointment, they were discharged from the doctor’s care.  Once, I waited four hours in the doctor’s waiting room for a urine drug screen test.  The receptionist kept telling me to be a good patient and sit down.  Finally, I was discovered by a nurse as they were locking up for the day.

If a patient is discharged by a pain management physician for any reason, it is definitely a black mark on their record and it makes it more difficult for a patient to find another pain management physicians because the pm doctors do not want to take on the liability of someone who has been discharged from care.

New regulations to be enforced by the DEA  and FDA provide more red tape to gag the physician from providing proper opiate treatment to their chronic pain patients.  For information regarding requirements regarding classes that physicians must take see the following

Should Physicians tell Patients about Medical Mistakes?


Today I read an article in Medscape regarding the issue of whether or not a physician should tell their patients if they make a mistake in the medical care of the patient.  You can read the article here.

I have suffered greatly because of physicians’ medical errors.

The first time, was in 1991. I had a D&C for a miscarriage.  After the procedure I continued to have bleeding and began to develop severe abdominal pain.  I informed my physician and the office said to make a follow up appointment.  I had the D&C where I lived and it was far away from my work place, so a secretary at my office got me in to see her doctor at the medical school clinic.  Over a course of three weeks, I saw five physicians.  None of them could figure out what was wrong with me. One of the doctors, did a pregnancy test.  She asked me if my stools were dark and I told her they were.  My pregnancy test was still highly positive.  She brought up the possibility of a tubal pregnancy but after consulting with the head of surgery she told me that wasn’t a possibility.

My last clinic appointment was with the head of surgery.  He examined me and reviewed my case and concluded that I was a post-partum neurotic.  He gave me a Demerol shot and advised me to go home.  Fortunately, a urologist I had seen was there and he said he thought something was wrong with me.  He said he was going to admit me to the hospital and he sent me down to GYN for a sonogram.

After they performed the sono, the doctor pulled out a huge, long needle.  I asked what they were going to do.  I was informed that they saw pus on my sono so they were going to extract it via my vaginal canal.

After they began the procedure, the physician turned towards the intern and told him to page the surgeon stat for emergency surgery.  He told me I had massive bleeding in my abdominal cavity.

They rushed me into emergency surgery.  I remember the doctors running down the halls pushing my gurney to the OR, all in slow motion.  A nurse told me I might not survive.  Fortunately, a top specialist in fallopian tube repair was on call.  I had a ruptured tubal pregnancy, not post-partum neurosis.  The specialist successfully repaired the tube.

After surgery, the urologist came in to apologize to me.  He told me that I had a tubal pregnancy.  All the doctors assumed because I had a D&C that I couldn’t have a tubal pregnancy.  The surgeon who repaired my tube had been a professor of the doctor who did my D&C.  He called the doctor and asked him the results of the D&C pathology report.  It showed no fetal cells.  Physicians are routinely supposed to read pathology reports after surgery, but the physician said it had been misfiled.  The doctor who repaired my fallopian tube told my original physician to call me immediately and apologize to me, which he did.

Fortunately, everything turned out okay.  I had a baby boy two years later.  Obviously this happened because of slightly unusual circumstances, tubal pregnancy, but there was gross physician error involved.

Did I feel better that the physician apologized.  Yes I did.  I still was angry that none of the other physicians, especially the head of surgery, did not come to see me after surgery and apologize.  Did I consider suing?  It crossed my mind but since I was in the medical profession I knew that there was no case because there was no loss of organs.

The second incident occurred in 1997.  I was having right sided abdominal pain.  I consulted a GYN and she told she would do surgery to remove abdominal adhesions.  She did a laprascopy but found massive adhesions. Without informing me or my husband or obtaining a surgical consult, she converted the surgery to a laparotomy. When she was trying to remove adhesions, she accidentally injured three nerves in my abdominal area.

After surgery I had trouble walking and severe abdominal pain.  She told me both symptoms would pass and sent me home.  For two weeks I difficulty walking and severe pain.  I saw her for a follow up visit.  She told me the surgery went well and that she thought I had a psychosomatic disorder that caused my pain.  She explained to me stress can do things to the body and put me on antidepressants.

I tried to see her again but she refused to see me.

I suffered with this pain for years and over the years it got much worse.  No one could figure out what was wrong with me.  I ended up seeing a pain management doctor for treatment of my symptoms.

In 2003, we moved and I saw a pain specialist who was a neurologist. He did some testing and told me I had reflex sympathetic dystrophy which is a chronic pain syndrome. He said after reviewing my records, my disorder had likely developed after a complication in the abdominal adhesion surgery.  I obtained my medical records. We discovered what she had done. Did I file a lawsuit? It was too late to pursue any legal recourse.  Was I upset?  Tremendously so.  It has affected my whole life.  I am tortured every day by severe pain.

Do I think that physicians should tell patients when they made an error in their treatment?  Of course. When you as a customer pay for services you expect to be informed if any errors occurred in the performance of your service.  What do you do when your accountant makes an error in your tax return, your mechanic doesn’t fix your car as he or see promised, or an appliance you were sold doesn’t work?  You complain to the appropriate people and expect an apology and an assurance that the problem with be fixed if possible.  If the service provider is unable to fix the problem, you expect some compensation.

So why do so many physicians not tell their patient about medical mistakes?  I think because as medical students, physicians come to understand that telling patients about your mistakes just isn’t the thing that doctors should do.  They should be seen by their patients as a person with superior knowledge in the medical field so the patient will be able to trust them.   Also, their medical malpractice insurance is ridiculously high and they are afraid that they will be taken to the cleaners in court.

First of all, almost all medical malpractice claims are settled out of court.  I have done quality peer review of patient cases with physicians.  Most people who find out that a medical mistake in their care end up not suing.  They may threaten to sue but often change their mind when they find out how difficult the process to recover any damages may be.

The attitude of the physician as the great healer, keeper of medical knowledge, and the condescending “protective” relationship of the doctor to the patient should have been thrown out years ago.  Today’s medical consumer is much more likely to want to know what is going on with their care and they also have more tools to research their illness via the Internet.  Doctors say that medical information on the Internet is incomplete and full of errors.  That is true, but a large part of the population of people are educated, especially the baby boomer generation.  They are use to obtaining and receiving information where and when they want it.  And half of the doctors look up medical information on Wikipedia!

So, as the baby boomers mature into their elder years, I believe the consumer movement in health care will explode with thousands of people seeking information about their medical histories and care.  It will probably change the practice of medicine.

I think the role of the doctor today should be that of patient advocate.  The doctor should be a team member in providing good medical care for the patient. He or she should encourage their patients to become informed and welcome their efforts to find out information regarding their condition.  If the doctor is able to communicate with the patient about their knowledge and continues to encourage good communication between the patient and the doctor, it is reasonable to assume that misunderstandings that lead to threats of lawsuits will decrease tremendously.

Many physicians say that they will not tell their patient about any mistakes they may have made in their patients medical care.  Consumer trends and new governmental reform may force them to reveal more information. They should get used to providing information to their patients.

Visit with the Manhattan Pain Specialist


Blogging has been on hold while I went to see my pain management specialist in Manhattan.  He’s part of the team at Dr. Portenoy‘s Department of Pain Management and Palliative Care at Beth Israel Medical Center across from Union Square.

I am going to try out a couple of new medicines.  One is well known, baclofen.  It’s a GABA-B agonist, that will, hopefully, do some good via effects on endocrine levels.  We’ll see. I haven’t started it yet, as Selchietracker wants to get a handle on how exactly to manage it.  It has a lot of side effects, and many of those signs and symptoms of adverse reactions, I have already as part of my illnesses.  As one doctor said, I am a complex lady.

The other is flupirtine,  a non-opioid analgesic that works on different receptors in the brain.  It should also have some neuroprotective effect.  That may help with the effects of FTD killing off my brain neurons.  It’s not normally available in this country, although it has been available for many years in Europe.   It’s now going through the FDA’s obstacle course as a treatment for Fibromyalgia.  Selchietracker got a prescription from Germany, and bought it from an internet pharmacy,

After we got back from the trip, I got an alert from the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association (RSDSA).  Dr. Portenoy is helping to lead a major push to improve the medical community’s education and understanding of chronic pain, so that we pain suffers will be able to get better treatment.  The launch of this effort is a report, A Call to Revolutionize Chronic Pain Care in America, by a private NYC group, the Mayday Fund.  According to the report, chronic pain is a greater burden on the health care system “than that of diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.”

The trip was great.  We love Manhattan.  We even found a newly reopened gluten-free Greek restaurant, Gus’s, on Bleeker St just a block east of 6th Ave.  The food is good and the seats are more comfortable than our old standby for GF, Rissotteria, which is a few blocks up Bleeker toward 7th.

Want to Really Improve Health Care?


Via Instapundit:  The post at, The Doom that Fell Upon Medical Progress in the US, only touches upon the tip of the iceberg of the needless human suffering caused by the exploitation of patients — the consumers — by “our” medical system.  In the underlying post they cite, American Healthcare Facialism, Prof.  DiLorenzo from the Ludwig von Mises Institute captures more of the problem, from a political and bureaucratic perspective, caused by state interference.

The problem is older and more deeply rooted in human nature.  G. B. Shaw observed in 1902:

No doctor dare accuse another of malpractice. … But the effect of this state of things is to make the medical profession a conspiracy to hide its own shortcomings.  No doubt the same may be said of all professions.  They are all conspiracies against the laity and I do not suggest that the medical conspiracy is either better or worse … but it may be less suspect.

The medical community’s monopoly is based on technical knowledge that was wholly their property.  The laity was largely prevented from acquiring this knowledge or even the means of acquiring it.  The internet has profoundly altered that balance of knowledge.  Motivated “patients”, i.e., consumers, now frequently know more about their diseases than most of the doctors they encounter, much less the nurses or others of the doctor-lite crowd.  The doctor is no longer the sole, literate, non-religious man in the village.

We have granted the medical profession, and all the other allied “professions” and medical institutions, a monopoly over our medical care.  It has gone so far as to prevent us from taking medicines that we need without their permission.  That monopoly is no longer justified by the balance of knowledge — and hence, power — that now exists.

Prof. DiLorenzo points out the influence states have in inhibiting competition.  Again, using doctors as a conspicuous example:

Physicians have long enjoyed a degree of monopoly power derived from state legislatures that delegate to the American Medical Association (the doctors’ union) the “right” to limit entry into medical schools through accreditation. Only graduates of accredited (by the AMA) medical schools are licensed to practice medicine. [Not quite true.  Graduates from foreign schools can practice after passing a harder test than is required of AMA school graduates.]  The AMA has used these state-granted privileges to limit both the number of medical schools and the number of medical-school graduates. The reduced supply of doctors drives up the price of medical care and the income of AMA members.

The physicians produce an artificial shortage of doctors for the express purpose of providing full, highly paid employment for all physicians, even the most incompetent.  Implicitly, they are telling us — the people, the consumers — that their prosperity and job security are more important than our lives and health.  Like the military’s up-or-out policies — if you are passed over for promotion a certain number of times, then you are discharged — we need to graduate so many doctors that the incompetent cannot stay in practice.  And we need to demand the transparency of results — medical outcomes — identified by individual physician, to know which doctors are good and which are not.

The word “patient” indicates that, traditionally, we are to be passive, medically, in the care the doctor provides.  This is exactly what must change if we are to rectify the priorities of the health care system.

We must return to first principles, those upon which our republic was founded.  We must be clear in our use of words.  This is not a matter of Democrat/blue/left/progressive vs. Republican/red/right/conservative.  This has nothing to do with the political parties of the twentieth or twenty-first centuries or on which side of the hall the French factions congregated in the eighteenth.  These are all false, one-dimensional scales that mislead rather than enlighten.

This is a matter of liberty vs. tyranny.  Tyranny has its own eternal allure.  ” I am weak, I want someone to take care of me, make decisions for me.”  This motivates children, the weak and the slavish.  At the other end of the true scale is Liberty.  “I am strong, I can take care of myself and my loved ones, I will decide what is in my own best interests.”  These attitudes motivate the strong and the free.

In the true meaning of the term, Liberty is what we strive for.  The only progress that we can make is toward greater individual strength and enlightenment to support greater liberty.  Heading back from Liberty towards Tyranny is regression.  As usual, the terms have been stood on their heads in the current national health-care-reform debate:  a Liberal means one who wants the government to have a greater and more tyrannical role, and a Progressive is one who sees movement towards Tyranny as “progress.”  a Progressive is actually a Regressive, a Liberal, a wannabe Tyrant.

We must privatize the health care system, break up the monopolies, encourage competition, demand transparency of outcomes, and take back our power as free adults and as consumers.  We do have the power.  It is up to us to use it.

India is one indicator of the possibilities brought about by an abundance of doctors and freer access to medicine.