I give what could be lethal injections for a living. That’s right. Nearly every day I give someone an injection of midazolam, vecuronium, and an IV solution containing potassium chloride–the three drugs in the “cocktail” that was supposed to kill convicted murderer Clayton Lockett quickly and humanely in Oklahoma. Here’s the difference between an executioner and me. I use those medications as they are intended to be used, giving anesthesia to my ...

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Nobody stands up to argue against quality and value in health care. You might as well argue against motherhood, or puppies. Yet many physicians are inherently skeptical of definitions of “quality” that are imposed from above, whether by outside evaluators like The Joint Commission, or (worse) by the government. There’s good reason for skepticism. Some of the “evidence” behind “evidence-based medicine” has turned out to be flawed, tainted by financial conflict ...

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The creatures cause pain by being born, and live by inflicting pain, and in pain they mostly die. –C. S. Lewis The problem of pain, from the viewpoint of British novelist and theologian C. S. Lewis, is how to reconcile the reality of suffering with belief in a just and benevolent God. The American physician’s problem with pain is less cosmic and more concrete. For physicians today in nearly every specialty, the problem ...

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We hold these truths to be self-evident:

A hospital administrator with a clipboard is in search of a physician who isn’t following “evidence-based guidelines.” There are fads in medicine just as there are in fashion -- today’s ”evidence-based guidelines” may be tomorrow’s malpractice.
Did your hospital, like so many, abruptly switch from povidone-iodine antiseptic solution to ChloraPrep® for cleaning a patient’s skin before surgery?  If so, I’m sure the staff was told that ChloraPrep would ...

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We guard the privacy of patients in my hospital zealously -- we take care of a lot of celebrities since we’re right in the shadow of Beverly Hills.  And of course we live in terror of HIPAA violations, those federally mandated HHS rules that protect individually identifiable health care information and could bring down “civil money penalties” upon us if we don’t keep our patients’ medical records strictly confidential. But for ...

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american society of anesthesiologistsA guest column by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, exclusive to KevinMD.com. When you need anesthesia for surgery or a diagnostic procedure, of course you want to know who'll be giving you anesthesia.  If you live in Texas, Florida, the District of Columbia, or 14 other states, you may be lucky enough to have an anesthesia team taking ...

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shutterstock_48561775 We were startled to learn recently that Sheridan Healthcare Inc., a physician services company based in Florida, has bought one of the largest private anesthesiology group practices in California, the Medical Anesthesia Consultants Medical Group Inc. (MAC) of San Ramon. The deal, which closed November 14, is Sheridan’s first in California, and “provides a platform that will accelerate our expansion in the California ...

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The latest salvo in the federal government’s war on physicians comes to us courtesy of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which is proposing drastic policy changes to expand nursing scope of practice in all veterans’ hospitals. A new draft VHA Nursing Handbook would eradicate all existing VHA policies concerning physician supervision, and would designate all advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including nurse anesthetists, as licensed independent practitioners (LIPs).  This means that ...

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american society of anesthesiologistsA guest column by the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Not so many years ago, surgeons wouldn't operate on patients they considered too old to tolerate the stress of anesthesia and surgery.  Today, however, patients of every age — from Baby Boomers to the Greatest Generation — undergo anesthesia safely for surgery and diagnostic procedures. Realistically, even if you believe ...

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hand washing We’ve run amok with wearing gloves in the hospital.  And by “we” I mean every healthcare worker in sight.  I see people putting on gloves before they’ll give a patient a clean warm blanket.  This is not only ridiculous, it’s actually harmful.  Here’s why. We learned the hard way in the 1980s, during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, that the ...

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burnout To the literal-minded, burning out is the fate of light bulbs and matches.  But whether you read the popular press or medical journals today, you’re likely to find writers who are deeply concerned about physician burnout. What defines physician burnout, and who exactly is suffering from it?  Is burnout an actual clinical syndrome, a slang term connoting fatigue and boredom, or a hazy ...

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Hal Movie buffs and science fiction fans certainly remember HAL, the computer in 1968’s hit movie “2001:  A Space Odyssey”.  Considered one of the greatest villains in film history, HAL was capable of reasoning and language processing to assist the astronauts on their space mission.  Ultimately, however, HAL decided that its best course of action was to kill all the astronauts. “I am ...

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My son has been accepted into medical school, we learned last week, and I must say I’m about as happy a mother and a physician as you could find anywhere.  For everything that’s wrong with the American healthcare system today, medicine is a wonderful profession and it’s still the greatest honor in the world for a patient to have faith in your skills and care. It will be interesting to see ...

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New research just out in the journal Psychology and Aging says pessimists live longer and healthier lives. If this is true, then contemplating the future of anesthesiology ought to make us immortal, because our professional prospects don’t look bright.  As we teach residents to do what we’ve always done, shouldn’t we ask ourselves honestly if we’re training them for a future that doesn’t exist? Especially here in California, it seems ...

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It's a nightmare that doesn't end for the family of 24-year-old Marek Lapinski, who suffered cardiac arrest recently during the removal of two wisdom teeth in a southern California oral surgery clinic.  The former college football player had no known health problems prior to the surgery, but died three days later in a hospital intensive care unit. While the circumstances of Mr. Lapinski's death are still being investigated, the case highlights ...

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Don’t be surprised if patients start asking more questions than usual about awareness under anesthesia.  We can all thank a recent article in The Atlantic magazine, with a large-print headline on the cover:  “Awake Under the Knife”.  Written by a UCSF medical student in preclinical training, the article not only assures everyone that awareness can happen, but takes pains to point out that anesthesiologists can’t always prevent it. The ...

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When you walked into the voting booth on Tuesday, November 6, did you do so with a feeling of calm certainty that the man who would get your vote for President was unquestionably the best choice, or even the only possible choice?  Did you feel confident that your candidate’s political party fully supports your political views as well as your personal values? For many physicians, I suspect that the answer to ...

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In my hospital’s preoperative area, upright on her bed, sat an unhappy middle-aged lady who needed an operation to treat complications from her previous bariatric surgery.  She hadn't lost weight and clearly was feeling discouraged about practically everything.  She was physically uncomfortable, couldn't even keep down her own saliva because her lower esophagus was obstructed, and was in tears. As her anesthesiologist, ...

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Really, sir.  What were you thinking? I’m talking to you—the anesthesia provider (I hate to think that you might be an anesthesiologist) who allowed himself to be videotaped while a patient injected his own induction dose of propofol.  Most people know something about propofol even if they aren’t in the anesthesia business–that’s the medication that Dr. Conrad Murray gave Michael Jackson to everyone’s sorrow. I would insert the link here, but the ...

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Unless you’ve lately returned from a retreat at a remote Cistercian abbey, if you’re interested at all in women’s issues you’ve probably read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent article in the Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can’t Have It All."  The author eloquently tells how she left her dream job in the State Department as the first woman director of policy planning in order to return to her husband, her two ...

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