Unnecessary surgery exposed!
Why 60% of all surgeries are medically unjustified and how surgeons exploit patients to generate profits
by Alexis Black
October 7, 2005
Every year millions of Americans go under the knife, but many of them are enduring great pain and shelling out thousands of dollars for surgeries they don't really need. In fact, the only people who seem to really benefit from these unnecessary medical procedures are the medical professionals who stand to make exorbitant amounts of money from performing them.
An estimated 7.5 million unnecessary medical and surgical procedures are performed each year, writes Gary Null, PhD., in Death by Medicine. Rather than reverse the problems they purport to fix, these unwarranted procedures can often lead to greater health problems and even death. A 1995 report by Milliman & Robertson, Inc. concluded that nearly 60 percent of all surgeries performed are medically unnecessary, according to Under The Influence of Modern Medicine by Terry A. Rondberg. Some of the most major and frequently performed unnecessary surgeries include hysterectomies, Cesarean sections and coronary artery bypass surgeries.
Coronary bypasses are the most common unnecessary surgeries in America
In a nation plagued by heart disease, it often seems that the knee-jerk reaction of American doctors is to treat heart problems with surgery. However, many of the heart surgeries performed each year are unnecessary procedures that could be putting the patients' lives at greater risk. "(W)hen faced with heart disease, doctors recommend a bypass. By so doing, we think, they bypass the real problem. Bypasses are the single most commonly performed unnecessary surgery in the country," write Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Mark Liponis in Ultraprevention. In fact, according to Burton Goldberg, author of Heart Disease, most coronary artery bypass surgeries and angioplasties produce no real benefit to the patient and dangerous side effects like stroke or brain damage may result from the operations. "Coronary artery bypass surgery is called an 'overprescribed and unnecessary surgery' by many leading authorities," Goldberg writes. "Complications from such treatments are common and the expense to the health care system is extraordinarily high. In 1994, an estimated 501,000 bypass surgeries at $44,000 each were performed on Americans, 47 percent of which were done on men."
Women are at an especially high risk of unnecessary surgery
Women may be at an especially high risk for unwarranted operations, since hysterectomies and Cesarean sections also top the list of "overprescribed and unnecessary" surgeries. Of the approximately 750,000 hysterectomies performed each year, 90 percent are unnecessary, writes Goldberg in Alternative Medicine, making the removal of a woman's uterus one of the most commonly performed unnecessary surgeries. And the risk that comes with an unwarranted hysterectomy is high. "Each year 750,000 hysterectomies are performed and 2,500 women die during the operation. These are not sick women, but healthy women who go into the hospital and do not come out," says Dr. Herbert Goldfarb, a gynecologist and assistant clinical professor at New York University's School of Medicine, in Null's Woman's Encyclopedia Of Natural Healing.
Women are also frequently subjected to Caesarean sections they don't really need. With an estimated 920,000 Cesarean births performed each year, the Cesarean has become the "most common major surgery in America" and it is four times more likely a woman will give birth via cesarean section today than it was in 1970, according to The Medical Racket by Martin L. Gross. Women are also at special risk for receiving unwarranted surgeries because of the results of a mammogram, since the high rate of false positives in mammography often leads to invasive procedures. Women who do not even have cancer to begin with are treated for breast cancer, Goldberg writes. That's right: These women's bodies are carved up and altered and they aren't even sick. So why does this happen?
Needless surgeries mean higher profits for doctors and hospitals
It may seem unfathomable to think a doctor could be so careless as to perform an operation that doesn't need to be done, but it has been happening for years, from the more minor routinely- performed tonsillectomies of the past to the invasive heart procedures, hysterectomies, back surgeries and more of today. "(T)he reality is that unnecessary surgery, whether performed by doctors who operate out of ignorance, self-delusion, or simple greed has long plagued medicine and today still reaches epidemic proportions." writes Gross. It may be hard to stomach the idea that doctors are capable of operating out of greed for more money, but some feel that is exactly what is happening. "American physicians are generally way too eager to use the surgeon's knife to carve up and chop out whatever they think is ailing you, at great expense to you and great profit to them and the hospitals they work for," write Earl Mindell and Virginia Hopkins in Prescription Alternatives.
When it comes to heart surgeries, Heart Frauds author Dr. Charles T. McGee writes, "As Harvard professor Braunwald predicted, a financial empire has developed around surgical procedures on the heart. With so many powerful vested interests involved, it will be difficult to change how American doctors treat patients with coronary artery disease. No one who is currently gaining from the system has any incentive to try to stop the unnecessary costs and suffering." In other words, surgery makes money and surgery is what medical professionals are trained to do, so rather than exert the time and energy to try more conservative treatments that could threaten their very careers, medical professionals often turn to surgery as their most immediate and financially logical avenue. "The economic incentive for a physician to operate on you is great. Surgeries make doctors a lot of money. Doctors are human beings and they are not immune to the lure of bigger profits," according to Prescription Medicines, Side Effects and Natural Alternatives by American Medical Publishing.
One extreme case involving a doctor knowingly reaping the financial benefits of unnecessary surgeries occurred in California, where an ophthalmologist managed to bill Medicare $46 million over four years for unwarranted operations he performed on his patients. "According to the government, he created a 'surgery mill,' in which he falsified patient records to justify numerous unnecessary cataract and eyelid operations. In addition to this wholesale theft, he put his patients through unneeded pain and worry," writes Gross. It is also important to note in all of this that unnecessary surgery is not considered medical malpractice, according to Rondberg in Under the Influence of Modern Medicine, which makes it even more important for patients to protect themselves by looking into all possible avenues before going under the knife.
If you imagine for a moment being knocked out, sliced open and having a part of your body removed for no logical reason, it sounds more like a nightmare than a visit to the hospital. But that's what is happening to millions in American hospitals every year. We are having organs and body parts removed without reason, and for what? Why are we so willing to give our bodies over to a person wielding a very sharp knife and some very strong drugs? Maybe it's because we trust that our doctors will do what is best for us, since, after all, we don't have the medical training they do. But when it comes to your body and your health, it's okay to be skeptical and to want all the information you can get. The bottom line is: Surgery is not something to be taken lightly. When confronted with the suggestion that you need to go under the knife, it's important to remember that you have a choice. Don't just trust one doctor to know what's best for you. Get a second opinion. It could mean the difference between life and death.
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