Love of gain, fear of responsibility and law suits sully health service

While medicine has contributed indirectly to an increase in average life expectancy through the use of vaccines, Prof. Voridis points out that basic hygiene precautions, cleaner water, better sewage treatment and better food are probably more important elements in ensuring good health and longevity. «Medicine starts to intervene at an advanced age and beyond. And there it can rectify organs, but not human beings themselves.» Hence the tendency to turn to religion in advanced years, he said. The fault lies with the medical profession. There is a wall, he says, between doctors and the public. «In the old days doctors might not have known much, but they knew – and they had a lot of experience in this – how to behave toward the patients who chose them and paid them.» Mass medicine in the Western world, he said, meant that despite the great strides made, doctors were no longer accountable to their patients but to their employers. This will result in suits and legal actions. «In a little while, patients will be going to the doctor accompanied by their lawyer. What will that lead to? To defensive countermoves by the doctors, who will exhaust all means of diagnosis and treatment. Someone will have to play the referee.» Nevertheless, are there not huge shortages in infrastructure and personnel, especially in intensive care? Voridis would agree, if «the units had not been turned into graveyard anterooms. Fear of responsibility means that people who cannot wring more than a few days’ more of life are admitted into intensive care, at great expense.» This ties up beds and is unfair to other patients. «Nevertheless, I would like to emphasize that hospitals do a wonderful job of responding to emergencies. «The doctors and nurses know their jobs. They’re dedicated, despite the fact that the surroundings are horrific, without a doubt.» But things are different when it comes to treating chronic diseases. «So what’s the matter? That Greece, a relatively poor country with organizational problems, set out to create an arrogant National Health System that would offer the same services to the rich shipowner and poor farmer.» A recent survey by the OECD found that Greeks were dissatisfied with their health services. «There are many reason for this,» said Voridis. «Suppose the best surgeon is appointed director of a large hospital. In one year, the waiting list will have grown to 1,500 people. Someone will phone him or tell him, ‘If you operate on me, you’ll get something.’ Won’t that person jump the queue? So, those who have been on the waiting list for six months will go to the private sector, if they can.» Private medicine meets 45 percent of needs in hospitals, clinics and laboratories, while in Britain the private sector accounts for just 6 percent, he said. Doctors’ love of gain means that a large percentage of operations and examinations are not necessary. «That also happens because of fear of responsibility; the motives are not only financial. «There’s also something wrong in the way a doctor rises to eminence and receives promotion: how many years they’ve studied abroad, what research papers they’ve published, how many of these are in reputable foreign magazines. It’s not enough that they diagnose correctly, that they can deal with patients.» Nowadays it’s not simply a title or reputation that make people choose a doctor. «Appearances on television are also a factor, unfortunately. People take it as a mark of success.» Checkups Checkups would be acceptable to Voridis as preventive measures if there were not so many slip-ups, and if they did not serve certain interests. PCA tests, for example, discovered a large number of people with asymptomatic prostate cancer. «With this discovery, however, cancer ceases to be asymptomatic. Instead, we start getting chemotherapy, post-operative complications, fear of death.» He did not believe in patients’ knowing everything. «In America, you can be hauled before a court if you don’t inform the patient of precisely what they have, tell them what the chances are for one solution or the other, how many years or months they will live. I find terrorizing a patient horrific, unless you want to make them quit smoking or lose weight. Each person has the right to enjoy their life; they shouldn’t feel threatened. «I take the responsibility of giving the patient the advice I would give my brother or myself. That is the criterion. Anything else is suspect. Only in this way can we say that some operations are not strictly necessary. You see, the bad thing about medicine is that we live close to, and off, other people’s pain.»

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