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How the ‘For Profit’ Health Care System Ignores the Hippocratic Oath.

amghru's picture

[I'm leaving this sticky because I wish more people would write up their experiences like this! --lambert]

A majority of medical schools recite the Modern Hippocratic Oath either at entrance to, or graduation from medical school. Although this oath is in no way binding, those of us who use physician’s services trust them to adhere to the principals that they once professed to embrace.

I could analyze each part of the Oath, but I would like to focus on this paragraph:

“I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.”

This paragraph has no basis in the real world of the “For Profit” medical system in the U.S. Here is a quick story to illustrate.

My diabetic older brother died in 2009 at the age of 47, due to his having no medical insurance. Somehow he got a bacterial infection in his foot that had it been left untreated would have rapidly spread through his body and killed him. Doctors said, had he waited another hour, he most likely would have lost his leg. As it was, he had 1/3 of his right foot amputated.

Four operations, seven days in the hospital and numerous follow-up visits later, you can imagine the hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills that accrued. While the hospital used money set aside in an endowment to cover the hospital costs, the doctors were another story. Their bills were nearly $200,000.

With no medical insurance, although both he and his wife worked, there was no way for them to pay these bills. Now insulin dependent and unable to work, he had to file for bankruptcy. It’s the same story for thousands of Americans every week. Unable to get the physical, emotional and occupational therapy he needed to adjust to the new limitations, I believe he simply gave up. He died in his sleep one week after the bankruptcy was finalized. My Sister-in-law is still struggling to recover from having her life decimated.

I have to be honest. I have a massive amount of disdain for the medical profession. I know many doctors and not one of them is more concerned with the welfare of their patients than they are about making money. It is rare that I have a conversation with any of them that the discussion doesn’t inevitably turn to the money they make or how something affects the money they make.

What kind of a society creates doctors that save a life and then are willing to allow that life to be financially and psychologically ruined due to the inability to pay. It’s like taking out a prisoner’s appendix so you can execute him later. Then there’s the irony that those doctors never did get any of that money. Universal health care for all could have eliminated the suffering my brother’s, and so many other’s, suffering.

Doctor’s are the ones who should be out front demanding that money not be the determining factor for access to the medical system. Not in America.

Average: 5 (4 votes)


TytoAlba's picture
Submitted by TytoAlba on

My first post here. What a great post amghru. I really can relate. I'm self-employed, no medical insurance, and in my 60s - 5 years to go before I qualify for MediCare. Hoping for the best, but also trying to stay as far away as possible from the medical establishment (ME) as it exists today. So far so good. I do have a good story, but not due to to the ME, but rather due to SEE International, that happens to be based out of my home town, and has a budget that supports local low-income people. I was rapidly approaching total blindness, with one eye already out of commission for several years, and the other one fading rapidly. Very scary for me, but there was no program I qualified for, not even Medi-Cal, so I had to live with it. See International fixed both of my cataract, restoring full sight in both of my eyes, although the totally blind one isn't aligned with the other one yet. But the difference is like day and night already. But again, this had nothing to do with our official system of medical care, but is only due to the incredible work of a non-profit, and my incredible luck to live in the town they are based in.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I admire the physicians in PNHP.

I am a happy customer of the "customer-owned" non-profit org Vanguard, for stock/bond index funds for retirement investing.

I would love to see a Vanguard-type "customer-owned" org create either a
health insurer (like Medicare)
health insurer + health care "provider"/physician (like Veterans Affairs)

that anyone could buy into, with the monthly policy fee based on a simple schedule of at actuarial costs, perhaps with incentives to reduce policy fee for good preventative maintenance personal behavior (no smoking, exercise, good nutrition/eat vegetables, etc)

Would love to see PNHP physicians attempt to create such an org.

TytoAlba's picture
Submitted by TytoAlba on

Thanks, Lambert. I've been reading your blogs for years, and actually tried to sign up a couple of times before, but never was able to. Good work, good man.

I'm one of Alegre's DKos "strikers". I currently DO blog there, but ONLY on the "Dawn Chorus" birding blog, a group of birders and naturalists where politics are pretty well excluded altogether. I have the same name there, Tyto Alba.

Submitted by lambert on


If you look at the Fracking Map, one thing that would be really easy to do is to create a dynamic map of bird sightings. If that is the sort of thing birders would like to do.

TytoAlba's picture
Submitted by TytoAlba on

I'm not actually a "birder" per se - my songbird ID skills really lack. But I've worked with seabirds and raptors in both rehab and education for a couple of decades, hands-on. At this point, my thing is public education about living with wildlife. That's what I do full-time now.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

great article, amghru. Sorry to hear about your brother. Your story reminds me of the stories in the M Moore "Sicko" documentary. Your story makes me conclude that I cannot consider the US a civilized nation.

1 thing that consistently annoys me is the talk from Plutocrat PR hacks (both Repub/Alan Simpson & DLC Dem/Obama varieties) talking of how Medicare or Medicaid recepients are "getting free stuff" "welfare" etc.

IMHO we should compare the US healthcare cost, which is roughly 2X our neighbor Canada. US private for-profit insurance is 90-100% Coporate Welfare, compared to Canada's public insurance (or US Medicare/aid/Vet Affairs) low Admin costs.

Pharma, med device, hospitals, and yes "providers"/physician/dentist/etc are also overcharging. Thus, assuming the 2X Canada cost multiple applies to the physician category, 50% of US physician pay is sheer Corporate Welfare "getting free stuff" aka "ripping of the American people".

The propaganda is insane. The Plutocrats call
a basic human right of access to basic health care, "getting free stuff/Welfare"
the US physician oligopoly/cartel/protectionist/perhaps the 1 legitimate case of an actually abusive US union (AMA physician union) charging 2X the cost of other rich nation physicians, "the free market".

George Orwell (& Adam Smith) must be rolling in their graves & violently shaking their heads.

coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

Would love to see some posts from you on the front page about the work you do with and education are good things.

Think about it! (Glad to "see" you at Corrente. I walked out with Alegre, too!!)

Submitted by lambert on

For some reason, there have always been a lot of animal rescuers at Corrente, so this would fit right in!

TytoAlba's picture
Submitted by TytoAlba on

See my comment to Coyotecreek below.

There are some past writings I have I could share (aside from the two DKos ones) as well.

TytoAlba's picture
Submitted by TytoAlba on

Thanks Coyotecreek. I remember you from both Alegre's and Goldberry's blogs. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of time to write these days, as our program went through a major expansion recently, moving from my home to a public facility, and that is taking up many more administrative hours than operating from my home, as our program now is being hosted by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, one of the most cherished institutions in our city. But I'd be glad to post the two diaries I posted on "Dawn Chorus" at Dkos. I doubt that anyone here has read them.

Submitted by Hugh on

Personally, I like the original Hippocratic oath with its emphasis on first do no harm.

Physicians form a weird subgroup like police and firefighters. I would say very few of them are in the profession primarily to help people. Most are in it for the money and prestige or because it runs in the family. I would say about a third are profoundly unhappy as physicians and would quit the profession in a heartbeat if they could find anything that paid as well. About 10 percent are what I would call hospital geeks. They get off on the power and the playing God. They would work insane hours even if they weren't paid so well. Only about one in a hundred physicians is a good physician, well rounded, and caring.

As for competency, all doctors make mistakes (medicine's dirty little secret), but I would, just guessing, rate 10-15% as poor, most as average, about 20% very good, and 1% or less brilliant.

TytoAlba's picture
Submitted by TytoAlba on

I so agree. Physicians now directly and perfectly reflect the direction our society has taken over the last fifty or so years: if you become a doctor, you can become rich. Unbridled Capitalism is the scourge, and the US leads the pack.

At this point in my own life, I'd rather suffer than subject myself to their "evaluations" of what ails me, should that come up (so far so good). One of my bird volunteers is a Dr. of Chinese Medicine (an American) who studied Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in China. He has also integrated Native American medicine and spiritualism in his practice. I've been seeing him for the past two years, and I must tell you his way of treating patients outdoes ANY doctor, except for perhaps emergency medical care for traumatic injuries, in all ways. He treats me for free, not because I'm special, but because he actually follows the Hippocratic Oath from his heart.

Submitted by lambert on

We never would have heard about all this great stuff if you haven't. If this be threadjacking, let us make the most of it.

Boy, though, I sure would like to have some Birdidotes, like Plantidotes... ;-)

TytoAlba's picture
Submitted by TytoAlba on

LOL Lambert. I could do that - perhaps once a week?

Submitted by lambert on

If we ever end up with Catidotes, we might need to make sure there's no collision....

TytoAlba's picture
Submitted by TytoAlba on

Please explain. I'm not up to date on Catidotes :)

Submitted by lambert on

But if we did... My understanding is that cats and birds in the wild have a predator/prey relation, which causes issues for "their' respective humans