Monthly Archives: December 2014

Commentary: Hospitals ‘deeply sorry’ for lung cancer misdiagnosis

This commentary is in reference to a recent article published in the Toronto Star:

The press or media, as it is commonly termed, whether indulging in sensationalism or good investigative reporting, definitely has a sacred place in our society, and deservedly so, as the case cited in this instance illustrates. In my recent memory, at least over the past decade, we have had the debacle at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto, where a number of cardiac deaths occurred under circumstances which have never been fully explained. Then there was the frenzy over a drug undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of sickle cell anemia which involved a major generic pharmaceutical manufacturer. My interpretation of that situation was that the manufacturer attempted to force the principal researcher in charge of the trials to alter the results. Many lawsuits resulted and may still be operative. The same manufacturer has recently been charged by Health Canada with producing contaminated drugs under substandard conditions. Many lawsuits have ensued and are still ongoing. Then we heard about the major mix-up with the incorrect pathological interpretations of breast cancers in Newfoundland and now this matter of a lung tumour. It is certain that the latter is not an isolated instance. Periodically we hear about the incompetent pathologist who may be undergoing personal stress, utilizing inappropriate drugs or may even be suffering from a mental illness. Clearly, as history would indicate, these cases are never simple, however they indicate a persistent and probable growing trend.

How many radiological studies, pathological interpretations and routine blood tests are reported incorrectly on a daily basis? If I may hazard a guess, probably somewhere between 3-10%; at the same time, even 1% would be too high and validates the growing hazard of lack of care and responsibility and today’s gold standard of mediocrity. Realistically the percentage, whatever it may be, is undesirable, particularly if one is the patient involved.

Fortunately, the individual in this instance had the intelligence and the resources to obtain another opinion, which for the average individual is generally not possible. The move the patient made clearly saved his life. Most importantly, it demonstrates again the lack of care and attention and the substandard fashion in which our society functions.

In a medical system controlled by governments, insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry, primarily interested in their individual vested interests, this trend is hardly surprising. Unfortunately, no one is taking the necessary steps to counter this trend. Only education and legislation can arrest and reverse these occurrences and no one appears to be interested in these processes.

For the individual physician, it is still of the utmost importance to listen to the patient tell their story and to perform a thorough physical examination. Invariably, this will provide the correct diagnosis, which can then be confirmed, if necessary, by the appropriate studies and tests. This simple and effective approach to healthcare has long fallen by the wayside. No significant medical education reviews have been carried out since the Rockefeller Report (the Flexner Study), was performed between 1910-1915.

Further evidence of the deterioration of health care is portrayed by the banners with their bold slogans adorning the hospitals on University Avenue in Toronto. Much is stated that is simply not true. The banners advertising these fundraising efforts which promise to help sick children, provide cures for cancer, etc. appear to be primarily directed to generate the millions of dollars required by the propagators of these efforts under the guise of helping the sick and underprivileged. The money being mined by these industrial fundraisers, after their not inconsiderable portion has been amputated, ends up in the same government financial pool as our tax dollars, which are treated as the politician’s personal hoard, to disburse at their discretion. Clearly, this is an inappropriate manner in which to fund healthcare and unless our leadership changes, or at least changes course, these events will become more prevalent. Why have these inappropriate and, from my perspective, adverse activities enmeshed the healthcare system? The answer: excessive regulation devoid of intellectual input, along with the destruction of independent thought and the status of the individual. Everything must become systematized and conform to the frequently inappropriate regulations of the bodies that control all activities in this area. 1984? — more like 3084. Fundraising has become an enterprise that only serves its own interests and the patient is merely used as a pawn to achieve their objectives.

At this time, it is best for the independent practitioner to focus on preventative medicine, encourage the ingestion of a healthy diet, exercise in moderation and avoid the politics and misrepresentations of the health, food and nutritional industries.

Protect your health through education and the adoption of an appropriate lifestyle.