Racketeering in Medicine: The Suppression of Alternatives

Racketeering in Medicine: The Suppression of Alternatives

Here is a book that deserves a wide audience, especially now that so many Americans are hopeful about the possibility of drastic reform in the health care system. Dr. Carter's credentials are impeccable; he is presently Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Tulane University School of Medicine and Head of the Nutrition Section at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. For many years, he has been interested in the prevention of health problems through proper nutrition, the avoidance of addictions and other issues related to clinical preventive medicine.

Racketeering in Medicine focuses on how politics secretly control the practice of medicine in the United States. "If a doctor dares to introduce a natural, less costly method, no matter how safe or effective, Organized American Medicine can target this doctor for license revocation using fear tactics and legal maneuverings," he writes in his introduction. Organized Medicine is, he states, by far the strongest professional monopoly in the United States, built from a combination of money from the Rockefeller Foundation and influence from the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges, which is involved in the health and medical fields throughout the United States and Canada.

The prescription of holistic treatments, such as chelation therapy for vascular-related conditions, the Gerson diet for cancer therapy, or the use of saunas for detoxification of people exposed to large amounts of chemical pesticides, have made several physicians the target of legal and medical board harassment in the United States. Dr. Carter cites three major reasons for the opposition to holistic therapies by the medical establishment:

They involve a major change in scientific thought,

They imply that current methods are inadequate, and

They threaten huge profits of a powerful branch of medicine or a drug company.

Dr. Carter devotes his first chapter to the history of repression in medicine, a long history indeed. His list of "heretics" starts with the 16th-century Swiss alchemist-physician Paracelsus, the first to be labeled a quack (for his use of mercury to treat syphilis), and includes the explorer Jacques Cartier, who learned from American Indians how to prevent and cure scurvy with pine needles (which contain Vitamin C) and excitedly carried the news to doctors back in France, who gave him the cold shoulder, Dr. William Harvey, whose monumental work on the theory of blood circulation was forbidden to be taught at the University of Paris more than two decades after he had published his findings; James Lind, the surgeon's mate in the British Navy, who learned that citrus fruits prevented and cured scurvy, but whose discoveries were not implemented for almost fifty years; Dr. Jenner, the doctor who first developed an effective vaccine against smallpox, who was ridiculed for fifty years before his remedy was endorsed; botanist Gregor Mendel's theory of genetic composition, which was ignored by the rest of the "scientific" community for more than three decades; Joseph Lister, who called for aseptic techniques to avert deadly infections after surgery; Ignaz Semmelweis, who was persecuted for urging 19th century doctors to wash their hands before delivering babies after doing dissections in the morgue; Dr. Louis Pasteur, a chemist whose germ theory for infectious diseases provoked furious opposition from the medical community of the late 1800s; Dr. Fleming's mid-twentieth-century discovery of penicillin, which was ridiculed and ignored for twelve years before its acceptance into mainstream medicine; and Dr. Joseph Goldberger's solution of the mystery of pellagra as a vitamin-deficiency disease rather than an infectious disease, as had previously been thought. Greedy flour barons of the time managed to keep his discovery and his recommendations from being implemented f or half a century.

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Sadly, the list could go on and does. Dr. Carter discusses several modern-day examples of treatments and therapies which are currently being suppressed. For this information alone, the book belongs on every health care provider's bookshelf, but its value goes beyond this. Dr. Carter discusses at length the failure of the Food and Drug Administration to act in the interest of the public. Sometimes working in collusion with the AMA, the FDA has seized batches of evening primrose off, a vegetable off that is "generally recognized as safe in some eighteen industrialized countries and is also approved as an additive to infant formula in Japan," probably because it can become a serious threat to the market share of aspirin and all the other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Chapter 11 deals with the current health care crisis in the United States and provides some gems that should provoke further thought:

"Perhaps one-quarter to one-third of medical services may be of little or no benefit to patients. (Institute of Medicine)"

"The link between the process of care and patient outcomes has been established for relatively few procedures (Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress)"

Carter quotes Dr. David Eddy, Director of the Duke University Center for Health Policy Research, on the rising costs in health care through research and experimentation: "We don't know what we're doing in medicine...We're really flying blind on an awful lot of important problems. The same patient can go to different physicians, be told different things and receive different care." Despite the wild variations in medical tests and procedures ordered by supposedly "acceptably practicing" physicians (Carter cites the variations in cesarean rates in Massachusetts hospitals a few blocks away from each other -- 19% opposed with 30% and the sevenfold increase in the rate of tonsillectomies performed in Rutland, Vermont, as in Hanover, New Hampshire), Washington's latest federal agency created to assess new technology has, so far, ignored the racketeering-for-profit element of medicine that have been a significant factor in driving up health care costs in the United States at several tim es the rate of rise of costs in Canada. Of course, we shouldn't forget the U.S. drug manufacturing companies' 800 percent mark-up on drugs, nor the tremendous waste involved in the personnel needed to "push, shovel and plow the paper necessary to process routine claims" for the 1,500 private and independent health insurance companies that afflict the U.S. public. In Canada, a doctor needs only check a box on a simple form and marl all bills straight to the government. Vancouver General Hospital employs fewer than a dozen bill clerks, who mainly have to bill foreign patients. In sharp contrast, "Beaumont Hospital In Detroit has an entire building devoted solely to billing and collection, with 300 employees to push paper." One patient discharged from Beaumont Hospital created an amazing paper trail:

"Hospital bill to Medicare

Hospital bill to the secondary carrier

Hospital bill to the patient

CRNA bill to Medicare

CRN bill to the patient

Physician's bill to the patient

Physician's secondary bill

Medical-surgical bill

Cardiologist's bill

Physical medicine bill

Anatomic pathologist's bill

Radiologist's bill, plus 24 other bills from non-hospital-based physicians such as anesthesiologists and two consulting surgeons, for a grand total of 41 original bills going out for a single patient for a 30-day hospital stay."

There's more in this fine book: a wonderful chapter on the Ninth Amendment, another on the United Nations' endorsement of primary health care, and still another on the ways various European countries are dealing with over-prescription of drugs manufactured within their borders and the prescription of natural remedies and complementary or alternative systems of medicine. The Epilogue points the steps necessary to lead us out of the current health-care crisis.

If you are an American, you need this book. if you are not an American, you may need it, too, because you may need to fully appreciate or even recognize the need to improve upon the health care system you have. Dr. Carter has done us a tremendous service by taking the time and trouble to write it.

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If you are unable to order Racketeering in Medicine from your local bookseller, you may order directly from the publisher.

Call 1-800-766-8009, toll-free.

Ina May Gaskin.

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By Ina May Gaskin

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