How reporter Jan Hoffman and the New York Times manage to insult female physicians and get their facts about anesthesia so wrong all at the same time.

My husband and I, both anesthesiologists, enjoy our Sunday mornings together — coffee, the New York Times, a leisurely breakfast. No rush to arrive in the operating room before many people are even awake.

Today, though, seeing reporter Jan Hoffman’s front-page article in the Times — “Staying Awake for Your Surgery?” — was enough to take the sparkle out of the sugar. Her article on how much better it is to be awake than asleep for surgery reminded me why I left a plum job as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal to go to medical school — because reporters have to do a quick, superficial job of covering complex issues. They aren’t experts, but seldom admit it.

Physician anesthesiologists across the country are likely to face patients on Monday morning who wonder if they ought to be awake for their surgery. The answer to that question may well be “no”. But according to Ms. Hoffman, that answer reflects “physician paternalism”, and makes us opponents of the “patient autonomy movement”, because a patient should have the right to choose to be awake.

It’s not that simple.

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12 COMMENTS

Michael deCamp

Thankful to have missed Ms. Hoffman's article and certainly agree with your delightful rant. I did have my total knee done under epidural anesthesia without sedation; had a nice quiet chat with the Anesthetist at the head...I had helped train her 20 years before...and had my cataract replaced with an IOL under topical without sedation as well. I was told I could not drive after surgery, but as the Chief of the Outpatient Anesthesia department had done, I said that I never had an ...Read More

pam price

Your coverage regarding "eyes wide open" anesthesia brings up issues that never crossed my mind, however some curious patients might find their viewing these procedures terrific cocktail chatter. Personally, it could come down to a personal choice at some point, with all of the cost cutting in medical care one of the prevailing issues. Recovering from an operation/anesthesia whether the patient observes the process or not? Personally, I wouldn't want to observe any of it, I would ...Read More

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In the interests of full disclosure, I acknowledge with delight that I have a non-time limited board certificate from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), issued before the year 2000. I can just say “no” to recertification.

The more I learn about the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and its highly paid board members, the more disillusioned I’ve become. It’s easy to see why so many physicians today have concluded that ABMS Maintenance of Certification (MOC) is a program designed to perpetuate the existence of boards and maximize their income, at the expense primarily of younger physicians.

Lifelong continuing education is an obligation that we accepted when we became physicians, recognizing that we owe it to ourselves and our patients. That is not at issue here. We have an implicit duty to read the literature, keep up with new developments, and update our technical skills.

The real danger of MOC is this:  It is rapidly evolving into a compulsory badge that you might soon need to wear if you want to renew your medical license, maintain hospital privileges, and even keep your status as a participating physician in insurance networks. If physicians don’t act now to prevent this evolution from going further, as a profession we will be caught in a costly, career-long MOC trap. The only other choice will be to leave the practice of medicine altogether, as many already are doing.

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10 COMMENTS

willy miller

HYPOCRITS! that's what the members of the AMA, ACGME, Specialty Colleges and academics are. TOOLS, interested in their income, stature and professional advancement. Boards are a joke, useless and serve no purpose. But US medical system has become the most corrupt business in the US due to these tools. FIGHT BACK. SUE. Inform the media to investigate these organizations.

Alieta Eck, MD

I have a certification in Internal Medicine that is not time limited. I will never participate in MOC. My husband was Board Certified in Family Medicine which expects repeated testing, but he brushed it off. One hospital suddenly decided this was a big deal and told him he needed to take the test in order to retain privileges. The Board wanted him to pay for all the tests he missed before they would allow him to sit for the current test. He refused, and after 25 ...Read More

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Six-year-old Caleb Sears:  His death was preventable

I’m not a pediatric anesthesiologist. Most of us in anesthesiology – even those who take care of children in the operating room or the ICU every day – probably will never give anesthesia to a child in a dentist’s or oral surgeon’s office. So why should we care what happens there? Dental anesthesia permits and regulations, after all, are under the authority of state dental boards, not medical boards.

The reason we should care is that healthy children have died under anesthesia in dental office settings, children like Marvelena Rady, age 3, and Caleb Sears, age 6. Unfortunately, they aren’t the first children to suffer serious complications or death in our state after dental procedures under sedation or general anesthesia, and unless California laws change, they won’t be the last.

In 2016, officers and past presidents of the California Society of Anesthesiologists (CSA) have made multiple trips to meetings of the Dental Board of California (DBC) to discuss pediatric anesthesia. We’ve provided detailed written recommendations about how California laws concerning pediatric dental anesthesia should be updated and revised. We’ve explained in testimony before the Dental Board, and in meetings with lawmakers, why we believe so strongly that the single “operator-anesthetist” model (currently practiced by dentists and oral surgeons in many states) cannot possibly be safe.

The DBC on December 30 published new recommendations for revision of California laws pertaining to pediatric dental anesthesia, posted them on its website, and sent them to the Senate Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development. But these recommendations ignored many of our concerns, and don’t go nearly far enough to protect children.

Further, the DBC cites statistics claiming that pediatric dental anesthesia is currently safe. But there is no database! The Dental Board has admitted to discarding records after review. They have reported on “only nine” recent cases involving death, ignoring other tragic cases of permanent brain damage and prolonged ICU admissions. Pediatricians in California recently surveyed 100 of their members and found that 29 of them — nearly one-third — knew of patients in their practices who had experienced adverse events in a dental office.

What is a single “operator-anesthetist”?

You may never have heard of a single “operator-anesthetist” because such a thing doesn’t exist in medical practice.

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4 COMMENTS

Alan Schneider M.D.

The real shocking statistic is that there are not more deaths if Dentists, along with their assistants, are allowed to provide sedation to children. Because one thing for sure it will not be moderate sedation in a child. I am amazed they are even able to get the IV started I trained decades ago as a pediatric anesthesiologist, although supervise mostly adults now, but even my adrenaline would be pumping if I provided sedation to a child in an office setting
Unnecessary dental sedation deaths persist. The practice of single-operator anaesthetist should have been stopped many many years ago. Thank you for an excellent article.

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“I’m your friend,” Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter, MBA, PhD, told a sometimes skeptical audience during his keynote address at the ASA’s annual meeting, ANESTHESIOLOGY 2016. “I’m trying to help you see a better way forward, and avoid the bad outcomes that may happen if we don’t transform healthcare.”

Porter is a well-known economist, an expert on business strategy, and the author of the book Redefining Health Care: Creating Value-Based Competition on Results. In his speech to the ASA, he argued the case for redefining health care by making “value for the patient” the unifying purpose, and he urged anesthesiologists to forget pay for volume.

“How should anesthesiologists engage in bundled payments?” Porter asked. “Jump on them!”

Explaining that he has spent the past 15 years immersed in studying health care delivery, Porter said that he looks on health care as one of the world’s “most fundamental and intractable problems.” He asked listeners to think again about anesthesiology practice, and its role and responsibilities in the future of health care.

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1 COMMENT

Richard Ogden

I have spent the best part of 26-years working in the operating theatres in the UK, alongside some magnificent anaesthetists; and I must say this article is rather a sad one. The Anaesthetist, from a rather prejudiced point of view, is by far more important than the surgeon: if not because they facilitate safe operating conditions for the surgeon, then because they are the patients brain (Dr A Vohra Cons Anaesthetist) whilst under anaesthesia. Moreover, the Anaesthetist has the ability to provide considerable skill and ...Read More

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Classic rock music lovers who think they don’t like poetry, and literary purists who think they don’t like popular music, may have been equally baffled to hear that Bob Dylan is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. As an unrepentant English major, I’m delighted.

I can’t remember a time when Dylan’s music wasn’t a part of my growing up, from the rebelliousness of the anti-Vietnam era to the bittersweet maturity of “Tangled Up in Blue“, my all-time favorite.

When you think about it, any time you listen to a song — a current popular hit, a 1950’s oldie, or a centuries-old ballad like “Greensleeves” —  you’re listening to poetry, only with a tune. In ancient times, before most could read or write, people turned stories into poetry and sang them because rhyme and melody made the stories easier to remember and retell. Much of rap music is poetry (often crude, but still poetry) with complex use of rhyme and assonance, and the musical element reduced to a backdrop of pounding rhythm.

Poetry set to music can convey any and all human emotion. Love, of course. Jealousy — absolutely. Just pick a musical genre, and there’s a hit song about jealousy. In pop music, Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” lets her revel in her psycho side. In country music, Carrie Underwood graphically explains in “Before He Cheats” what can happen when a woman wants revenge on her faithless lover, and takes it out on his car. And the still-creepy “Every Breath You Take“, the 1983 classic rock hit by The Police, blurs the fine line between devotion and obsession.

Then there’s the universal human experience of grief. There was a time when every parent expected to lose a child, or more than one, because children often died from pestilence and poor sanitation. When my daughter Alexandra died unexpectedly at the age of five months, I couldn’t decide which was worse — thinking that I wouldn’t survive, or being horribly afraid that I would.

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4 COMMENTS

Beautiful. When we practice medicine and when we practice life with vulnerability we often find just what we're missing -- inevitable connection.

Rick Novak

Well said. Dylan wrote love songs, angry songs, sad songs, uplifting songs, protest songs, long fable songs, and mystifying songs, . . . like no one before him.

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