Monday, March 11, 2013

Recent documentary downplays importance of aggressive surgical intervention for elderly heart patients; maybe more about self than family after all

As I discussed on my TV blog yesterday, CNN repackaged a film “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare” and presented it with additional materials and discussions Sunday night.  The film and discussion do provide a different idea about senior care.
That is to say, indulging patients with constant tests and procedures, while profitable for some doctors under Medicare, may not really prolong patients’ lives significant after all.  Particularly with heart disease, some patients have as long an expectancy without stents and invasive interventions but by being treated medically.
This is important because, as Dr. Mehmet Oz has pointed out on Oprah and numerous other daytime shows (mostly on ABC), he doesn’t like to do invasive procedures on elderly patients without strong familial support – “you love someone and they love you back”.  The CNN film (which I had seen in a theater six months ago but not recalled in detail at first) struck me this time as emphasizing personal independence, momentum, activity, and healthful lifestyles (staying away from too much processed food), but not so much interdependence with family. On the other hand, previous broadcasts on Oprah about “blue zones” have stressed the importance of social connections. 
My own mother had coronary bypass surgery at age 85 in 1999.  At first, doctors had tried to deal with her blockages medically – and in fact had not been as aggressive in looking for them as they might have been, which was better for me – if they had been, I wonder if I could have done a necessary corporate transfer in 1997. They wanted to do angioplasty, and decided her arteries were too brittle, and confronted her on a Saturday afternoon than they would do emergency surgery on a Monday morning.  I did not have to return (I was afraid that I might have to).
They never again attempted any more surgical interventions.  For example, they never installed a pacemaker.  She did very well on the surgery for eight years, and started a gradual decline in about 2007, to pass away at the end of 2010.  

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