Unnecessary Surgery and Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater

Here’s another reference from BusinessWeek today, “Bypass that Operation”, on the same vein about doctors who don’t know what they are doing, including performing unnecessary surgery.   It suggests that many if not most of 400,000 bypass surgeries and 1 million angioplasties are unnecessary. 

While I find fault with the general tone of this article, glorifying Dr. David Eddy, his brilliance and his blunt challenge to healthcare that it needs better proof for the efficacy of its treatments, because the tone of this article blithely understates the fact that there is a clinical basis for the decisions doctors make, some patients actually do get better by the treatments prescribed, and wholesale dismissal of physicians’ education and training may have less to do with the facts than it does with Dr. Eddy’s ego and BusinessWeek’s need to make brash statements to gain attention.  This is not to say that I do not believe there are flaws in the process, but there is little justification for the kind of criticism that the BW article. What bothers me most about this article is that its sensationalistic approach to the subject and its flippant consideration of clinical practice on a grand scale trivializes the benefits of medicine and medical technology to patients.

By the way, in 2003, I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease, with blockage at 90% in one artery. While Dr. Eddy may thrive on the debate challenging the value of angioplasty and stenting (“mesh tubes” are not angioplasty, BusinessWeek), I know that however true it may be that some “cheaper alternative” might have done as well as angioplasty/stenting, there was no such alternative at the time. I am alive now. Replicate my experience with all others similarly diagnosed and that is precisely the reason for the high utilization of angioplasty/stenting. BusinessWeek’s cursory analysis failed to consider such an obvious driver.

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