Patient Heal Thyself!

By Robert J. Casañas, M.D.
Published in La Gaceta

dr-photoAlthough it has become extremely more difficult to take pride in anything that any legislative body does in the United States, particularly for the last seven years or so, I was overwhelmingly and seriously relieved by the fact that the multi-million dollar “field of dreams” proposal for Hillsborough County was trounced last week. I think my faith in the local political process would begin to be restored if all of that abundant property tax monies were to be funneled to some worthwhile cause, such as providing healthcare for under-served segments of our community. If, as expected, it will not, it might behoove us to notify our needy brethren to follow President Bush’s cynical quip to understate the fact that there is no healthcare crisis in this country and that there is readily available medical care by simply “going to the E.R.”

Since I have never been an enthusiastic “bread and circus” sports spectator, I guess I manage to find enough time on the other hand to become aware of the posturing of Presidential candidates concerning the issue of healthcare. It just might take a Michael Moorish type of candidate to point out the malodorous elephant in the room, i.e., the Medical Insurance Cartel.

According to a recent study, more than half of the physicians in the United States believe their ability to provide quality healthcare has deteriorated over the last six years. What a coincidence that this is the amount of time that we have had the helmsmanship of the present administration involved in our lives in more ways than we care to count or somehow were left out of that arcane covenant called the Constitution.

As what we have been allowed to practice by governmental intrusion and the insurance cartel becomes more and more disease management, it is now more relevant than ever to become actively involved and empowered in your own medical care and become aware of just how toxic not only the environment, but the political scenario impinges and truncates our life, liberty, and the pursuit of medical happiness.

The ethical bankruptcy of federal and state governments facilitated by the largess of corporate oligarchs and perpetual term self-serving politicians can lead an intelligent individual nowhere but to develop his or her own personal health compass. It is not just the purveyors of information or the mass media that have politically co-opted our right to know and sit as a proverbial lap dog at the right hand of the emperor without clothes, but rather the actual sacrosanct process of science and the dissemination of information by scientists have also been quagmired.

Of interest to note: Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Carmona testified in Congress last July and ominously stated “Anything that does not fit into the President’s ideological, theological, or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized, or simply buried”.

The insidious turnstile that exists between government regulatory agencies and the industries that they purport to regulate should be construed by any critical thinker as nothing but a pox on our collective health. As a case in point, President Bush has effectively eviscerated OSHA regulators of corporate pollution (that poisons all of us) by gutting fines and inspections and imposing so-called “voluntary compliance”. The consistent and callous arrogant disregard of the health and safety of the ordinary citizen, (i.e., those of us without corporate power or assets to purchase politicians) recently played out in exemplary fashion in OSHA’s management of the connection between Diacetyl (a flavoring used in buttered popcorn) and so-called “popcorn lung” which was deemed to be inconclusive. Popcorn lung is a condition where the small airways literally melt and are unable to function properly causing respiratory distress in workers in that industry.

Of course, the stance taken by all of the President’s men on global warming has been all along a blemish of the declining prestige of the American scientific process. The President himself went so far as to conscript Michael Crichton, a science fiction writer, to buttress his total denial of the facts that are considered well-established by most world scientists. Not to detract from science fiction writers, one could find limited solace in the fact that a grade B science fiction writer actually managed to establish a religious institution in this country fifty years ago.

To expound on this fact: What is the end result on our individual health if regulatory agencies appoint former corporate heads of the industries they oversee? We are increasingly subjected to a toxic wasteland that will propel us along the path of rapid aging and dysfunctionality which coupled with economic insecurity makes us all docile and conciliatory. How were the “troops supported” after Vietnam when Agent Orange was disavowed for decades and Gulf War Syndrome is now downplayed for political economic purposes? For all of us, if dangerous levels of toxic substances are found in our bodies, then political appointees that serve on scientific advisory committees simply rachet-up what is defined as “toxic levels”. Other self-appointed health gurus will dictate what procedures and investigative techniques may be utilized by your physician, but it does not matter anyway because most average doctors will not bother to look for heavy metal toxicity in dysfunctional patients, for example.

What about the rampant use of bisphenol, (the chemical found in all plastic containers) and the persistent organic pesticides (POP) found in farm fish and both of their relationships to the development of diabetes? The presence of both of these chemicals or either one alone is a more significant causative factor for this disease than obesity itself. What about the relentless increase of the incidence and prevalence of obesity in this country? In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the author recalls the efforts of Senator McGovern several decades ago in attempting to bring to public scrutiny the role of saturated fats and trans fats in the development of atherosclerosis; instead, he was besieged, quieted, and dislodged from office by the dairy and meat industry. The admonitions to forsake meat and dairy products for healthier choices was watered down and consequently the befuddled U.S. consumer nevertheless reached for high carbohydrate meals and the outcome is now history, i.e., an obesity epidemic engendered by corporate tyranny.

If you have ever been daunted by large trucks driving close to you in the middle of the night, consider this. OSHA has recently deregulated limits in the transportation industry by allowing
truck drivers to drive over 80 hours per week. Consider also this: The transportation agribusiness industries (which are the two biggest industries regulated by OSHA) contributed a record $800,000 to the Republican party in the year 2000 alone.

Speaking of political appointees, the head of OSHA happens to be Mr. Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., a Republican political appointee whose job qualifications consisted of belonging to a South Carolina law firm that devoted itself to union busting consultation for corporations. Incidentally, he was also a major fund raiser for the state of South Carolina for the Republican party in the year 2000.

It is just not a matter of wondering whether the fox is in the hen house, but rather how many hen houses are left that do not have foxes in them. Perhaps the sulfur smell in those hen houses may not be coming just from rotten eggs.

With the blessings of that other regulatory agency, the FDA, agribusiness has now unleashed other poxes on the body public such as radiated food, genomically altered food, and most recently has allowed the marketing of meat from cloned animals. In addition, the FDA recently proposed to not require that such transmogrified food items be so labeled so as not to “foster widespread boycotting by the consumer”. It merits paraphrasing: Since for an informed choice you need information, the information will be censored because that individual’s choice may just wind up decreasing this particular industry’s profits.

Here is more interesting information. No one doubts that the $100 billion dollar per year pharmaceutical industry has considerable clout in the political arena. Last year alone, it contributed over $50 million dollars to political candidates. Although it can be construed as chump change for the pharmaceutical industry to have to pay $310,000 for each new drug to be put on its express processing lane in the quarters of the FDA, it is more astounding to know that 50% of the FDA’s budget comes from the pharmaceutical concerns based on this speedy approval innovation. The FDA had been considered the bulwark of pharmaceutical safety all over the world, but since the pressing need for the approval of HIV drugs effected a more liberal approval process, the pharmaceutical industry did not lose its chance to push the envelope. In 1988, the FDA approved only 4% of new drugs approved for the first time in the world. In 2007, the FDA approved 75% of the entire world’s debutante drugs.

Our hopelessly dysfunctional institutions may very well send an innocent man to the gallows or school brawlers or pot smokers to jail for a lifetime and perhaps let here and there a rapist murderer walk too much, too soon, too quickly, and too abjectly, but the dysfunction lies in that it does not serve the public well.

On a somewhat related note: What is the common denominator of the following drugs: Seldane, Zomax, Troglitazone, Viracept, Propulsid, Vioxx, Cerivastatin, etc., etc? These are all FDA approved drugs that have been taken off of the market, most of them in the last seven or eight years.

What is more lamentable than the number of drugs on this list is that the information and data

clearly indicating a tremendous risk for the consumer had been suppressed by the pharmaceutical company itself. Again, chump change fines are issued and thereafter it is business as usual. At some point, the federal government grants the pharmaceutical company some kind of immunity and the liability is conveniently avoided. One is reminded of how difficult it has now become since laws were passed under this administration to bring forth class action lawsuits against corporations by citizens harmed by corporate mayhem and dishonest science. While ordinary citizens can now face traffic fines of over $2000 in some states (Virginia) and Corporate Welfare has induced budget cuts for all social services, you are now beset at every point by user fees (tolls, permits, licenses) and fines that are totally out of proportion to their intended purposes. A shift of budget cuts necessitated by tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations is passed on to the unempowered shallow pockets.

How is it that 40% of CEOs found guilty of deceit, tax evasion, and defraudation of pension plans still manage to be bestowed hundreds of millions of dollars as severance pay after they are convicted? Likewise, when bridges and overpasses collapse or entire cities are wiped out by hurricanes, there seems to be little consequence for the politically appointed bunglers. It’s still “a heck of a job Brownie” and Brownie gets re-elected or re-appointed again.

If all of this smoke and mirrors makes you short of breath and myopic, then it is time to come out of the chicken house. It is high time to come out of Plato’s Cave, time to turn off the TV, read books, get on-line, and devote some of that fervent sports enthusiasm energy to take back your own healthcare and non-manufactured life.

(To be continued)