Don’t Let Your Doctor Kill You

This is one of those eye-grabbing titles written by a whistle-blowing physician that is meant to be provocative, much like “ADHD Does Not Exist”.  Don’t Let Your Doctor Kill You is subtitled How To Beat Physician Arrogance, Corporate Greed And A Broken System – which is the substance of the book, rather than a clarion call to paranoia.


In fact, the back jacket cover of the book – if one can judge a book by its cover – shows you that Dr. Schwartz has a softer side.  Yet she pulls no punches between the covers.

Erika Schwartz

Let me share some of the highlights with you:

  • Physicians are now being taught to follow protocols, “evidence based medicine” and act robotically, almost thoughtlessly in group think fashion when treating patients.
  • Those who don’t follow the party line established by medical societies are quickly marginalized from the system and become outsiders.  They are considered alternative, unacceptable to the mainstream and labeled quacks or snake oil salesman with impunity and venom.
  • When outliers raise valid questions and challenge the wisdom of the status quo, the indoctrinated mainstream physician is conditioned to automatically reject the validity of an opposing point of view.
  • Physicians for the most part are skeptics who don’t listen – a deadly combination.

I have advocated many times here and elsewhere for the position that Dr. Schwartz champions regarding third party care:  It is crucial that the doctor’s primary obligation is to the patient, and that is increasingly challenging when the doctor is working for the insurance company.  That is one of her clarion calls in this book, and is illustrated with the following vignette:

I remember  one middle-aged patient – I’ll call him Charlie – who always came to my practice in his red Porsche, which he parked in front of my office.  Comprehensive and capitated insurance coverage were just coming into existence, and I wasn’t sure whether to join the trend.  Some of our our patients, who were teachers, had asked us to accept GHI (the insurance provided by their union), so our office manager enrolled us.  One day, after a routine visit, Charlie and I walked to the checkout area of my office.  As I watched him hand a five-dollar bill to our secretary, I asked him whey he was only paying $5 for the visit.  He told me that his wife had GHI insurance, which we were now accepting, and he was on her policy.  I’m a very direct person, so I told him I felt being paid $5 for my services didn’t feel right, since it was devaluing my work as his doctor.  He said ‘but you accept the insurance’.  He also told me he didn’t intend to offend me and would pay whatever it took to keep me as his doctor.  I will forever be grateful to Charlie in the red Porsche.  He opened my eyes to what was to come and I  was lucky to have the self-confidence to refuse to take insurance ever again.  You have no idea how easy it is for any doctor, under the threat of losing patients and the competitive whining of peers, to down in the impersonal insurance shuffle and wind up serving the insurance master rather than the patient.”

2 thoughts on “Don’t Let Your Doctor Kill You

  1. Dr. P., are you advocating for a single-payer system? If no insurance, the burden must be carried by the state, the person, or a combination. Here, the state covers the cost through taxation. Not perfect, in that doctors are finding more and more ways to bleed it out, but still, at least we have public control and can fix that. In private hands, healthcare policy is subject to corporate strategy only. I do agree with the four key points and see evidence of this everyday; they do help to perpetuate an industrial-profit-based mode of operating, where the ‘recommended’ intervention will be the one that companies want to promote, and not necessarily the one that has best value or outcome for the patient. Again, thanks. Dr. B

  2. You’re welcome, Dr. B. I’m advocating two things in parallel. One is for a critical mass of doctors to dump third party care, and create a culture where those who can afford to pay, pay privately. They are still eligible to file for reimbursement through out of network benefits. I’m fine with a single payer system. But those who elect to go out of network would be reimbursed for whatever their out-of-pocket payment is to the non-participating provider for the same costs incurred by the government (or whichever third party entity is footing the bill).

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