Articles Posted in Military Medicine

mdmaMental health experts aren’t suffering Sixties flashbacks. But they are seeing a new day for Molly (aka MDMA, Ecstasy, or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) and magic mushrooms (psilocybin). These hallucinogenic drugs are getting serious consideration in helping those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression and anxiety due to cancer.

The federal Food and Drug Administration, which won’t comment on the matter, has approved Phase 3 clinical trials (large-scale human research) of MDMA for treatment of PTSD, according to  Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).  

MAPS is a nonprofit research and educational organization that “develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana.”

38_Special_mushrooming_side_viewA lethal epidemic is sweeping Baltimore neighborhoods, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, as well as demoralizing caregivers who struggle with its casualties daily. Researchers, tragically, are barred from developing detailed data about this scourge to try to curb its increasingly deadly harm.

Kudos to the Baltimore Sun and reporter Justin George for investigating for a year the gun violence that torments the city, sending at least 200 patients to area hospitals already just in 2016. The Sun says hospitals in the poor city have spent in five years more than $80 million caring for patients involved in gun crimes. Hospitals have seen their gunshot caseload double, and the costs of this care increase by 30 percent. Taxpayers end up footing most of the bill under Medicaid, the federal-state insurance for the poor.

The Sun’s multi-part series looks at gun violence from many aspects but the violence’s effects on the city’s health care is tragic and distressing.

The events of recent days ─in Texas, Louisiana, and Minnesota─ have been so tragic that it’s easy to despair. Here are four health-related people stories worth reading to remind us of humanity’s enduring better side:

  • In the horrors of Syrian combat, medical Samaritans strive to maintain some kind of care

syriaFirst, let’s stipulate that there’s almost as much barbarous conduct as can be imagined in this recent New Yorker report about the struggle to maintain medical care in combat-ravaged Syria. President Assad’s predation on his own people has become an international abomination, including his forces unleashing snipers to maim emergency medical personnel, and their dropping barrel bombs, laden with lacerating shrapnel, on hospitals or known care-giving sites (February, 2016, photo of a bombed hospital from Doctors Without Borders/Medicins san Frontieres).

Last year the country was shocked to learn the extent of the systemic problems the Department of Veterans Affairs had in delivering adequate health care generally, and, specifically, the grossly long periods vets had to wait to get an appointment.

It’s not getting better.

Department officials told the New York Times that the number of vets on waiting lists of at least one month is 50% higher than it was during the height of last year’s problems.

Substituting one drug for another – say, a generic version for a brand name – often is perfectly fine in terms of what’s best for the patient. But when a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia replaced certain psychotropic drugs with older versions, it put patients at risk, because the priority wasn’t good care, it was cheaper care.

As told by the Washington Post, a federal investigation last month concluded that the drug switch was a violation of VA policy, and that it resulted in a “substantial and specific danger to public health and safety,” according to the VA’s Office of Medical Inspector. The probe was aided by a whistle-blower within the department.

The U.S. special counsel acknowledged the important role of the whistle-blower, which is doubly interesting, given that so often, as we wrote recently, people working in military medicine who identify its shortcomings often are ignored at best, and suffer retribution at worst.

We’ve learned a lot in recent years about how the impact of medical mistakes and malpractice can be somewhat less devastating when the parties who commit them cop to the bad outcome. But like so many other medical providers,the U.S. military, apparently, has decided such acknowledgment is not its mission.

In a story called “Service Members Are Left in the Dark on Health Errors,” the New York Times illuminated how 1.3 million active-duty service members are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of medical error because they are ” virtually powerless to hold accountable the health care system that treats them.”

When members of the service are ill or injured, unless they get specific approval, they must get care through the military system, even if they believe that care is substandard or dangerous. They’re doubly jeopardized because if that military care causes harm or death, they and their survivors have no legal right to challenge it or file malpractice suits.

Another takeout in the New York Times’ coverage of poor quality in our nation’s military medical system has this quote about what happens when doctors and nurses on the inside complain:

” … brushed off, transferred, investigated, passed over for promotion or fired after they pointed out problems with care.”

The Times had asked anyone with experiences of military medicine to write in to the Times’ reporters, and today’s piece talks about the dozens of responses from doctors and nurses trying to buck the culture of silence and obedience, which works most of the time for the military, but not for health care.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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