Hopkins Surgeon Blasts Healthcare Safety, Ethics

Cheryl Clark, September 13, 2012

In three decades of writing about healthcare, a couple of tragic medical errors still haunt me. One is a series of "awake" surgeries traced to a malfunctioning anesthesia machine at a California hospital. The other is the story of a man whose surgeon had left a 14-inch metal retractor in his groin for three weeks.

But I've never been so petrified of entering a hospital or a doctor's office as I am now, since reading the excoriating book, "Unaccountable," by Martin A. Makary, MD, MPH. It is set for release Tuesday.

I think anyone who reads it, providers and consumers of healthcare alike, will be too.

A Johns Hopkins pancreatic cancer surgeon, Makary portrays an industry operated by a money-grubbing, deceitful, and dangerous cabal of over-worked, sometimes drug-addicted, charlatans who frequently profit from unnecessary and unsafe procedures, and commit malpractice even as they hide behind their mistakes.

They market non-existent excellence, take kickbacks on the side, and perform surgery even when they lack adequate training, Makary asserts.

The next time I see a surgeon, I will look for any hint that he or she is a so-called "Dr. Hodad," physicians nicknamed by their peers as having "Hands of Death and Destruction." Every hospital has at least one, and they turn surgical instruments into "wrecking balls," Makary says.

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