What Happened to the Hippocratic Oath?

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 What Happened to the Hippocratic Oath?

I am 57 years old and have been practicing for close to 30 years. When I was a child, growing up, we were taught to believe that Health Practitioners chose their professions as a calling, to help and heal people and to see that people could live a long and fulfilling life. I’d like to believe that this is still the case and perhaps I’ve become a bit more cynical as I’ve aged and watched how the health care field has evolved over the years.

I attended an excellent college, in fact one of the top universities in the United States. A great many of the incoming students were pre-med, meaning that they were talking the courses necessary so they would be admitted into a medical school. My first exposure to the realities of health care was from speaking to some of these freshmen and more often than not, the conversations seemed to revolve around the huge amounts of money they would make when they became Doctors. On occasion, I did speak to those people who really wanted to make a difference and really help the suffering, however more often than not, becoming a doctor was more about the potential money and prestige that came with the profession at that time (early 1970’s).

As it turned out, the pre-med syllabus was difficult (to say the least) and many of these students lasted one semester. However, those who were able to memorize the required work and regurgitate it were able to get the high grades and did go on to become doctors, dentists and other health care workers. I noticed that many of these students had no “people skills” but were good at spitting back the required information.

Now, I’ll fast forward 30 years. The medical field has dramatically changed and the large incomes are gone. Most doctors I know are working long hours, paying high office expenses and being “managed” by managed care, meaning that they cannot always make the proper decisions that are in the patient’s best interest. Managed care companies tell the doctors what they can and cannot do. Of course, they don’t blatantly say it and would deny it if accused, but when necessary treatments are not covered for one reason or another, this is the way that the control works. Additionally, as most doctors have contracts with managed care companies, these doctors are contracted to accept whatever payment is negotiated, and most times the payments are much lower than what the public believes. A doctor might submit a bill for $150.00 but will be lucky to receive $46 dollars and by contract will have to write off the rest.

This brings me to the subject at hand. As I very successfully treat Fibromyalgia, I am in constant contact with Rheumatologists, Chronic pain Doctors, Psychologists and other professionals who deal with fibro and related issues and illnesses.

Story 1 – Three years ago, I had a patient who had suffered with fibromyalgia for 20 years. She had gone from doctor to doctor with very little results. At that point she was under the care of a Rheumatologist. This particular patient found me and decided to begin treatment at my office. Her Rheumatologist was very supportive (something I find to be rare) and told her that if the treatment worked, he would be able to refer loads of his fibro patients because he really did not know what to do with them. Suffice it to sat, Terry has been fibro free for three years (my treatment lasts 8 weeks) and sent back a wonderful report to her Rheumatologist. I, than, decided to set up a lunch appointment with this doc to see if he might be a viable source of referrals, after all, he said that he was looking for someone who knew how to treat these patients. This doctor and I had a nice lunch, but as he explained it, over 50% of his practice were patients with Fibromyalgia and if they all got well, he would lose his practice. I was stunned.

Story 2 – I met with a Clinical Psychologist, who had Fibromyalgia for about 13 years and began treatment in my office. She was successfully treated and all her fibro symptoms had resolved. As she told me “Thank you for giving me my life back”. Being that she had suffered for so long with fibro, she had begun to specialize in running support groups for chronically ill patients, the majority having Fibromyalgia. She than asked me a question which also stunned me: “How am I going to hide the fact that I no longer have fibro symptoms from the people in my group?” When I asked what she meant, she explained that her chronic pain groups provided a high percent of her income and she could not afford to lose that money. I replied: “Isn’t it more important to be able to help people?” Her response: “I have expenses and 2 children in private schools.”

I have other similar stories which have accumulated over the years, but needless to say times have changed. More and more professionals are concerned, not with helping but with their own interests. Now this is not to say that all professionals are like this, but I seem to meet more and more. This is especially more evident when the economy takes its habitual dips.

I wonder if this is a new trend or if this has always been the situation and I just didn’t see it. My gut tells me that money always played a factor but the situation has worsened over the years.

There have also always been turf wars among health professionals and this also plays a part. Psychiatrists think psychologists are not highly trained; orthopedists think podiatrists are not trained etc.

My advice is that if you have a good, wonderful and caring doctor, keep him or her at all costs, even if it means paying for the care out of your pocket if the insurance plan changes. Your health is your most important asset, take care of it.

Dr. Gene Martin

Fibromyalgia Relief Center of the Bay Area

520 South El Camino Real, Ste 520

San Mateo Ca. 94402

Phone: 650-558-1010

E-mail: fibro@drgenemartin.com

Web: http://www.drgenemartin.com

Skype: dr.gene.martin

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