Introduction “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…” In America, it is against the law to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater, except if there is actually a fire. If you are the first to see the fire and warn others then you are a hero. The American health care system is on fire. This book describes my first person experiences as a cardiologist with the health care industry as both a patient and as a physician.
I have personally benefited greatly from being privileged to practice cardiology in this country. Doctors in the United States are granted enormous power and are amongst the most financially well off. But with this privilege comes enormous responsibility. In the words of President George H. W. Bush prior to the first Gulf War: “The only legitimate use of power is to help others.” Unfortunately, in today’s medical industry this power is being misused by too many for their own personal greed and lust for power. This has corrupted the system in such a way that those doctors and nurses who do truly care about the patients they serve have become subservient to the greedy and power hungry. The system must be changed.
Our current healthcare system rewards quantity, not quality. Quality is given lip service, but those who care more for their patients than for the dollar are frequently discriminated against and suffer retribution. Intrinsic to this dysfunctional system is an utter lack of doctor accountability. Figuratively speaking, in today’s healthcare industry, unless a doctor is sued for malpractice, as long as he brings in the bucks, he can pretty much get away with anything short of shooting a patient.
I was forced to retire from medicine because I fought for my patients against powerful doctors who abused their power for their own personal benefit. While my life turned out for the better, many other doctors in similar circumstances may have had their lives and careers ruined because they stood up for their patients. For this reason I am compelled to publish my story. Any profits from the sale of this book will be donated to charities committed to improving the quality of patient care.
I will propose an economically sound, free market solution, based on Medicare, to this unfortunate mess. I believe that literally tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans die needlessly every year because our health care system values money and power over quality patient care. Millions of others, who don’t die, suffer pain and disability from improper medical care. This is true whether or not a patient has health insurance. Almost every lay person I talk to has a horror story about his own or a family member’s experience with health care. This occurs simultaneously with the fact that we spend more than twice as much per person on health care, including the uninsured and non citizens, than any other country in the world. In addition, the current system, without question, wastes hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
Because this book is also a memoir, I have included the story of my personal life. Many falsehoods have been perpetrated against me. I, therefore, must use this opportunity to defend my honor and tell the truth. By telling my personal history, I define my character, both professionally and personally, to explain why I made the choices I present. Ultimately, my personal life, and the lies told about me, intersected with my professional life when I became a patient subject to the abuses of the health care system.
I believe that justice can only be attained through truth. Because I seek a measure of justice, unattainable to me in the system, I cannot offer anything that is not true. To tell a lie would simply defeat my purpose of gaining justice. Everything in this book is true to the best of my recollection and knowledge. I qualify statements that represent any degree of conjecture on my part. And, of course, any person’s memory can be mistaken, especially about events that occurred decades ago.
This book defames no person or institution and violates no contractual agreement of which I am aware. I do not intend to harm anyone. If any of the persons I discuss find what they did embarrassing, I say this to them: If one does not want people to know what you did, then don’t do it in the first place.
I have tried to live my life by this principle. A person’s character is defined by the choices he makes in difficult situations. The reader will decide for himself whether or not I have lived up to my own standards. Some people say courage is doing the right thing even when it can adversely affect you personally. I think this is true. But any courage I may have displayed in my life or in my writing pales into utter insignificance when compared to the Marines on Bloody Ridge in Guadalcanal in September, 1942, or the soldiers on Omaha Beach in June, 1944. They died so that I have the right to speak the truth. For me not to do so, when so many are dying and suffering needlessly, would be cowardice.