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When Patient Rights Do Not Exist

American health care is in a truly deplorable state. Along with virtually everything else in our collapsing society, the American people are increasingly held captive to the barbaric whims and dictates of a ruling establishment, which holds nothing sacred, and which has acquired unprecedented amounts of wealth and power. Consequently, it was inevitable that in our health care system, the patient would become a mere commodity, to be used solely for purposes of research and profit maximization.

In any discussion regarding the current state of health care in America, it is illustrative to use as benchmarks, two of the most prestigious medical institutions in New York City: Memorial Sloan Kettering and Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Each institution regularly engages in behavior, which should be regarded by any sentient being as unequivocally criminal. Yet most Americans are scarcely able to muster a yawn, and insouciant liberals and neocons alike, evidently find the subject quite boring, in comparison with starting World War III.

Both Memorial and Cornell regularly commit egregious violations of patient privacy, by inviting college students, interns, residents, and fellows to sit in on a patient’s session with their physician, without first seeking the patient’s consent. As Edward Snowden has eloquently pointed out on numerous occasions: Freedom and liberty cannot exist once privacy has been lost. Is inviting unwanted interlopers, into what should otherwise be a private session between a doctor and a patient, indicative of a respect for patient privacy?

Evidently, this subject isn’t taught in medical school.

For many patients, it is humiliating to have a third person in the room, and a fourth person going in and out of the room, as they meet with their physician. Medical institutions defend this unconscionable practice, in the name of educating the younger generation of doctors, but this argument is rooted in base sophistry: For what lesson is being imparted, other than the one which declares that the patient is a commodity, and has no right to privacy whatsoever?

Sloan Kettering is a deeply authoritarian institution, and in many respects represents a microcosm of a police state, complete with the euphemistically named Patient Representatives, who are there not to represent the patient at all, but to bully and harass patients who complain, and who are deemed insufficiently docile and submissive.

Except in extremely unusual circumstances, where there is a change in diagnosis, Memorial refuses to allow patients to change their oncologist. To do so, would be to empower the patient, and the only people that Memorial wishes to empower, are their oncologists and their corporate Leadership Team.

Once a patient has been admitted into the hallowed halls of Sloan Kettering, and allowed to mingle with the Gods on Mount Olympus, they are given a specialist in colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, etc., and this essentially constitutes an arranged marriage that one cannot extricate oneself from, except by leaving the institution, dying, or being fortunate enough to have your oncologist retire. At first glance, this might seem a trivial matter. So why not get another oncologist at a different institution, many would ask. This is not an easy thing to do, as Memorial has hundreds of cancer specialists, some of whom have a specialized knowledge of cancers so rare, that doctors working outside of oncology have sometimes never even heard of them. Moreover, this argument erroneously assumes that the specialists you would be interested in working with at Cornell or NYU – the two other leading cancer centers in New York City – will also take your insurance.

Not allowing a patient to change their oncologist – when they vehemently wish to do so – while also knowing full well that cancer patients will be reluctant to leave such a specialized institution, results in a power imbalance, where many patients end up as punching bags for their abusive oncologists. A lamentable omission from the Sloan Kettering Patient Bill of Rights, and which incidentally, negates the entirety of the document.

Diabolical health insurance companies are already placing extraordinary restrictions on which specialists patients can and cannot see, and this problem is then exacerbated by this base and authoritarian practice. In any humane health care system, the patient’s right to choose between a variety of specialists, is deemed inalienable and sacrosanct.

All fields of medicine have made astounding leaps forward over the past century – all that is, except the field of oncology – which remains, with certain notable exceptions, mired somewhere in the Middle Ages. In spite of this rather lamentable state of affairs, oncology produces some of the most arrogant and egotistical people ever to walk the face of the earth. A peculiar phenomenon, which one is no doubt constantly reminded of at Memorial. The field is also evidently a magnet for bullies and sadists, who delight in tormenting patients, who are often physically, psychologically, or emotionally too weak to fight back.

Since Memorial places tremendous value on cutting edge research – as this is where the dollars lie – and regards the patient as the least important aspect of the institution, an abusive oncologist who repeatedly receives complaints from his patients, yet who produces good research, will continue to be enthusiastically backed by the institution.

Many of these young oncologists are also a product of our universities, which increasingly function as vocational job training facilities, utterly devoid of intellectual inquiry. These young doctors have typically done an enormous amount of study in their field, yet often lack a basic humanities education, making it exceedingly difficult for them to establish a harmonious rapport with their patients. Due to their lack of a liberal arts education, they are often unable to feel compassion and empathy for their patients, without which a doctor cannot be successful and effective.

Cornell delights in their two tier health care system, where patients with “good insurance” are allowed to meet with experienced specialists that teach at Cornell Medical School, while patients with “bad insurance” are given a resident or a fellow. The hypocrisy of this unconscionable practice is simply nauseating and beyond belief.

In the Cornell Oncology Fellows Clinic, unsupervised fellows are allowed to treat even the most difficult and challenging cancers, and are essentially given the green light to perform medical experiments on live human beings. This is deemed perfectly acceptable to those who run Cornell, since in their eyes, the destitute and unemployed are beneath contempt, and not deserving of good care.

In a deep and fundamental sense, both Memorial and Cornell regard good health care as a privilege, and not a right, which is precisely the same way in which affluent Americans and the upper middle class regard education.

The arrogance of these institutions can reach such outrageous proportions, that physicians will sometimes not even deem it necessary to fully disclose all of what is known regarding a patient’s disease. Sloan Pathology debunked Cornell’s controversial pathology report of my disease, yet was unable to replace it with a diagnosis of their own. Embarrassed to have failed at determining even so much as the lineage, a senior Sloan pathologist lied to me over the phone, and gave me an imaginary diagnosis, which I discovered several days later when meeting with my oncologist. As the patient is regarded as merely a piece of useless flotsam, what difference does it make, if they even learn the truth of their diagnosis?

And this disdainful treatment of patients at Memorial, often communicated with much sneering and snarling, is administered by oncologists, who without intended jest or irony, proudly refer to themselves as The Best In The World.

The fact that any American hospital – let alone two of our most prestigious – can regularly engage in such abusive and unethical practices, underscores the lack of humanity, compassion, and ethics; as well as the unbridled arrogance and greed, which continue to serve as the mildewed decaying heart of our satanic health care system. For it is a system which regards patients not as human beings with a soul, but as things to be mocked, exploited, discarded and thrown away.

Nationalization or barbarism? That is the question.

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