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Scrubbed Out: Reviving the Doctor's Role in Patient Care

Scrubbed Out: Reviving the Doctor's Role in Patient Care

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Scrubbed Out: Reviving the Doctor's Role in Patient Care

231 pagine
4 ore
Sep 6, 2011


The medical profession today is not controlled by doctors or nurses.

It's controlled by corporations, administrators, and bureaucratsit's become a business. Scrubbed Out presents a critique of the today's business of medicine and the profit-driven mindset that ignores human needs. Salah D. Salman is a doctor himself, concerned with the double standards and unscrupulous dealings of today's community of health care decision-makers. He does not hesitate to place the blame where it belongssometimes even with major teaching institutions and professional societies. Dr. Salman believes that a revolution is necessary to turn the system around, and offers the radical solutions necessary to reverse the trends of a downward-spiraling industry.
Sep 6, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

Former Professor & Chairman - Department of Otolaryngology American University of Beirut - Lebanon Retired Surgeon - Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary Director of its Sinus Center Retired Lecturer Harvard Medical School Boston Massachusetts USA Served twice on the Lebanese Cabinet: Minister of Public Health (1972), then Minister of the Interior (1976-1979).

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Scrubbed Out - Salah D. Salman


© 2011 Salah D. Salman M.D. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

First published by AuthorHouse 9/29/2011

ISBN: 978-1-4634-2820-4 (e)

ISBN: 978-1-4634-2818-1 (hc)

ISBN: 978-1-4634-2819-8 (sc)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2011910326

Printed in the United States of America

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models,

and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.



Chapter One

Health Care Is a Neglected Human Right in the United States

Chapter Two

Health Care Reform

Chapter Three

Failing Leaders

Chapter Four

Medical Doctors and Their Failings

Chapter Five

Administrators and Regulators

Chapter Six

Insurance Companies

Chapter Seven

Pharmaceutical Companies

Chapter Eight

The Story of Chronic Sinusitis and Functional Endoscopic Surgery

Chapter Nine


About The Author


This book is dedicated to the colleagues, trainees, and students who, knowingly or unknowingly, generously supplied me with material for its critical content, and to the others who were too busy, too indifferent, or too scared to speak their minds or even publically comment on important issues in health care. May this book help their sense of responsibility grow and develop.

It is also dedicated to the new breed of leaders in medicine, waiting to be identified, who are needed to design, execute, and monitor the unavoidable health care reform.


When I left Lebanon and immigrated to the U.S. in 1986, I was fatigued and drained by eleven years of civil war and by my public service as the Lebanese minister of the interior. I was eager to resume my career in academic medicine as an ear, nose, and throat specialist in a better environment. I was privileged and lucky to be offered positions at two world-famous and leading medical institutions, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) and Harvard Medical School. Two major aims in my life had been to teach and to try to make a difference in my community and my profession. I thought Boston, the medical capital of the world, would provide me with a golden opportunity to better serve these aims and to try to influence a larger circle than that available to me in Beirut.

Throughout my twenty-three-year career in Boston, I had the pleasure to meet and interact with masters in my field and with groups of smart, motivated students and residents. But a part of my experience was surprising and not rewarding at all: I made observations in the leading institutions at which I worked in particular, and in the American health care system in general, that deeply appalled me. As I witnessed repeated failings, I started early on keeping a record of significant occurrences and experiences. The large number of health care problems, deficiencies, and errors I observed at MEEI, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and Harvard Medical School over twenty-three years are the subject of this book. I tell stories and present reflections as a full-time, hospital-based doctor, as a teacher, and as a patient myself. This book is very much a personal viewpoint, not a study or a survey of the American health care system, the hospitals, or the medical profession.

This book is unique in that it presents the perspectives of one caring medical doctor, which are different from those adopted by the major health decision makers, who have successfully excluded the medical profession almost entirely during decision making and while seeking an expected timely reform. It is not my aim to criticize political ideologies and economic theories. I aim to shed light on shady practices of the major health decision makers and hospitals that write the rules, regulations, and laws that govern the practice, research, and teaching of medicine. These have contributed significantly to the present crisis and have stood in the way of effective reform. The book directs the spotlight on ignored, ugly corners of the health care landscape. It is also unique in that it does not shy away from finger-pointing if necessary, and from publically criticizing colleagues, major teaching institutions, and professional societies, heretofore a taboo among doctors.

This book does more than criticize, however; it provides unorthodox, politically incorrect solutions that are necessary for reform but that are largely impossible to implement and even voice in the current political climate and available venues. I hope that the solutions proposed in this book will serve as a nucleus for timely, radical reform, or even a revolution, if it proves unavoidable. This book’s tone is urgent; I am concerned that the current cost-cutting measures that are to be adopted in the reform process by corporations and hospitals will not serve the patients and the public health well, and will not work adequately in the long run.

I am unabashedly idealistic in proposing solutions, but I am not a naïve, unrealistic dreamer. I am convinced that when a job needs to be done, leaders should do it. My experience as a professor and chairman of an academic department in the Faculty of Medicine at the American University of Beirut taught me that it is possible for a leader in a teaching institution to make a big difference in health care, if the intent is present. Likewise, my experience as a minister of the interior in the Lebanese cabinet taught me that there is always at least something that can be done to improve very complex situations, even during civil wars. The other option for leaders would be to sit back, witness situations evolve and deteriorate, and then claim that efforts for improvement are futile. Unfortunately, current medical leaders have opted for the latter option. In contrast, I believe that health care is a nonnegotiable human right, that the practice of medicine is a mission more than a business, and that doctors have an unwritten contract with society to provide health services. I believe that health care is the ultimate responsibility of the medical profession, and nobody else’s. Doctors carry a double responsibility to society, first as citizens, and second as the major guardians of health.

In order to explain how I have arrived at my convictions, I should explain my background. I was raised in a Lebanese family and am one of six children. Both of my parents have influenced my career through exemplary behavior and ideals. My parents believed in and practiced philanthropy. They were in part motivated by the ideals of our religion, Druze, which is a small Unitarian sect that stemmed from Islam in the eleventh century AD. My father, a general medical doctor, graduated in 1922 from the American University of Beirut, which was founded in 1866 by American missionaries. He was taught that medicine was a calling and a mission, a science and an art in the service of the sick. He saw patients for free two half-days a week. My mother was a college graduate, an uncommon occurrence then among women of conservative Druze families. Besides raising six children, she consecrated her life to working for the welfare of children as a volunteer and leader. She was often referred to in the media and in public meetings as the mother of all Lebanese children.

My parents’ examples inspired me to study medicine. As an undergraduate at the American University of Beirut, I obtained an excellent education that further reinforced my ideals. Teachers of medicine then behaved like role models. During my education and thereafter, I was privileged to have had many leadership and service opportunities that helped shape my mind and attitudes and allowed me to formulate a blueprint for my life’s dreams. I became convinced that leaders in any field can make a difference if they choose to; otherwise they do not belong in leadership positions.

It is because of my convictions and my personal experiences as a leader that I have been so disappointed by the leadership in the U.S. medical system, not only in its failure to fulfill its unwritten contract with society to provide adequate health care, but also in its relative indifference to forces and pressures that contaminated the practice of medicine and rendered it a business.

That said, to criticize one’s profession is no simple or casual undertaking. It took a great deal of soul-searching for me to decide to write this book. As ideas crystallized in my mind, I sought the opinion of friends, who all exhibited the same initial reaction: Are you crazy? Are you aware of all the risks you are taking? They made a good point; by daring to say the unspeakable, criticizing, and questioning the judgment and motivations of the powerful demigods of Boston medicine, I risked making enemies among colleagues, hospitals, and universities, and even losing my job.

My friends were perhaps wise to caution me. But in the end, my loyalty to my profession in particular and to society in general proved stronger than my loyalty to my employers, my university, and to certain famous colleagues and friends who do not all deserve their fame. Also, the fact that I decided to retire facilitated my eventual decision to go ahead with my book project.

While I continue to be proud of my years of association with two giant Boston medical institutions and am indeed grateful for the horizons they allowed me to explore and for the opportunities they provided me, gratefulness is not a good enough reason to muzzle myself. Besides, keeping quiet in the face of serious problems is not a healthy manifestation of, or requirement for, loyalty. Indeed, I consider the silent see no evil attitude, widely practiced by the medical profession, responsible for many of the problems in health care.

Is it quixotic to hope that, by speaking up and openly criticizing the medical profession and leading teaching institutions, I and other caring medical professionals can make a difference? Is it futile to propose a different health care system that is better than the present one? Is it overly idealistic to try to extricate health care from the legal and commercial forces that continue to complicate it and even suffocate it? Is it impossible to rehabilitate medical doctors and remake them into professional healers, like their predecessors, rather than health care deliverers and businessmen in a health care industry controlled by corporations and a corporate mentality? Is it impossible to free health care from the dominating, not-always-positive influence of the insurance and the pharmaceutical companies? Is the imposing and costly presence of bureaucrats, administrators, and lawyers a necessity? Is it useless and futile to ask the medical profession to police itself for quality and cost-control in a traditional, time-tested manner? Is it unreasonable to expect medical leaders to lead in a responsible direction, rather than succumb to the external pressures and forces that contributed to or caused the health care problems? With tens of millions of uninsured and underinsured citizens, in the strongest world economy, is it utopian to hope that the federal and various state legislatures can ever be motivated to introduce and impose universal health care, like it has been for years in other, less affluent, industrialized countries?

Is it unreasonable to expect the medical profession to reassume its traditional and natural role of patients’ advocacy, and fight and refuse to comply with unnecessary costly rules and regulations that do not make sense and that have not achieved their intended purposes?

My answer to all these questions is an emphatic no. This book is a signal that I have not given up, in spite of the advice volunteered by friends, who asked me to be pragmatic and a man of this world. The missionary spark that I acquired, first at home and later in medical school and after personal experiences, is still active and refuses to die. Defeatism should not masquerade as realism; we, as medical professionals and citizens, have a duty to speak our minds and to fight for fairness, justice, and equality. Accordingly, I have opted to act responsibly, and exercise candidly the vanishing right of free speech. I admit without apologies that, in the process, shedding the common and popular political correctness proved necessary.


The author would like to thank Jack Satter, Jane T. Fogg, and Farida Al-Zamil for their generous support of this book project.

Chapter One

Health Care Is a Neglected Human Right in the United States

The Need for a New Health Care System

Insurers cheat the patients and doctors, patients cheat doctors and insurers, doctors cheat insurers and patients, and all cheat federal and state governments.

Barlett and Steele

Universal Health Care

These days, it is pretty rare for liberals and conservatives to see eye to eye on anything, but one thing is clear: no one is happy with health care in the United States except corporations. While not everybody agrees on the best way to enact health care reform, there seems to be unanimous agreement about its necessity; however, the acclaimed 2010 health care bill has not guaranteed the needed universal health care. Negotiations to remedy problems within the system rarely involve all the parties concerned; notably absent is the medical profession, which has been systematically marginalized. Cooperative efforts to solve health care problems have not been seriously initiated, even in the present crisis. The insurance companies, the current major players, and decision makers are fixated on the bottom line and stand in the way of needed reform. The transformation of the practice of medicine into a business for providing health care has been a strong blow to the time-honored traditional practice of medicine, and has disrupted the all-important patient-doctor relationship.

The United States needs a universal health care system, which is already available in less affluent industrialized countries. I believe that health care is a human right, and it has been neglected in this country. Other essential services are provided by the government—why not health care? Everyone is guaranteed a free elementary and high school education in the public school systems, and security, personal and national, is available to all. The logical solution to our health care problem is a single-payer system, run by the government or a government agency. Our capitalist infrastructure has prevented the creation of such a system up until this point, mainly because our original health care system was built around private, rather than public, insurance companies.

Many involved parties have stood in the way of the needed reform, including prominent medical associations and societies. Why has the medical profession, well versed in the principles of prevention, not exercised its expertise in recent decades to prevent serious health care problems? The idea of prevention is as old as medicine. Lessons about how to avoid common colds during the winter months have been passed down from family to family for centuries. Patients with infectious diseases, like measles, should be isolated to prevent the spread of the disease to those around them. The sterile technique has made major contributions in the development of safer surgeries: all operating personnel wear sterile gowns and gloves after scrubbing or disinfecting hands and forearms, and the operative sites are sterilized whenever possible. Certain body areas are impossible to sterilize, like the mouth

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