Monday, November 9, 2015

Canadian health care may not be as poor as the CBC would have you believe

This morning Heather Hiscox used a story about a B.C. man who has been unable to find a surgeon to operate on his pineal gland as her program hook to hold listeners and keep them from slipping away during the commercial break.

It was a good hook but proved to be a poor story. Heather Hiscox is a bright lady. I knew her at Western many years ago. She is a trained journalist. She has a Masters degree from the London, Ontario, university. Why can't she read this bumph before taking it to air and spike it rather than reading it.

Is Hiscox really nothing more than a talking head, a television personality? Has she forsaken her journalist roots? Here is a link to the story, headlined on the Web as B.C. man sells everything to pay for brain surgery in U.S. after being denied in Canada - Canadian system maintains surgery unnecessary for certain patients.

The U.S. study to which the CBC story links begins by stating "Surgical indications for patients with pineal cysts are controversial." A quick search of the Web uncovers an American doctor, Derek A. Bruce of the Children's National Medical Center, who posted the following on the Web:
I have never in my career, 43 years, found it necessary to operate on a pineal cyst. . . . The incidence of asymptomatic pineal cysts at autopsy is 10%. . . . Do not operate on this lesion until you are completely convinced that it is causing progressive hydrocephalus with symptoms.
Does the fellow in the CBC story need surgery on his pineal gland -- a gland buried deep in the brain. Maybe. It is a possibility. But another possibility is that the Canadian surgeon who said "it's not ethical to cut into your head for no reason" may be voicing a solid concern -- a concern shared by many American doctors as well as Canadian ones. Maybe this surgery IS unnecessary for certain patients.

I understand that American doctors face more threat of being sued for malpractice than Canadian ones. The fact, reported by the Los Angeles Times, that the doctor slated to do the surgery on the Canadian man "has been sued for malpractice about 17 times in his career" may mean nothing. And the fact that a judge said the U.S. doctor was "more interested in marketing than he was in medicine" may also mean nothing.

Still, the judge did find that the doctor "committed fraud when he performed an inappropriate surgery." Read the L.A. Times story, L.A. surgeon ordered to pay Maryland couple $800,600 in malpractice case, and make your own decision.

There is a story here. There may be a number of stories here. And one of the stories may find that a multitude of Canadians have undergone brain surgery at great expense south of the border for questionable reasons.

The other story may be that the resistance to doing pineal gland surgery is misplaced and it is time for more neurosurgeons to offer this option to their patients. Whatever, the story is not the one emotionally presented by the CBC reporter

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