Senator Kennedy’s Health Care and Yours

It is instructive and interesting to read about Senator Edward Kennedy’s treatment for his brain tumor.

The linked article describes the change in direction between May 20th of this year, when Kennedy’s brain cancer was first disclosed and surgery was not discussed as a possible treatment, and two weeks later, when neurosurgeons performed a “successful” surgery on his brain.

Why the change? From the article:

Precisely why Mr. Kennedy’s treatment course changed is not known; he and his doctors are not talking to reporters.

What is known is that a few days after Mr. Kennedy learned he had a malignant brain tumor in the left parietal lobe, he invited a group of national experts to discuss his case.

The meeting on May 30 was extraordinary in at least two ways.

One was the ability of a powerful patient – in this case, a scion of a legendary political family and the chairman of the Senate’s health committee – to summon noted consultants to learn about the latest therapy and research findings.

The second was his efficiency in quickly convening more than a dozen experts from at least six academic centers. Some flew to Boston. Others participated by telephone after receiving pertinent test results and other medical records.

As the article notes, Senator Kennedy called similar conferences of experts when one of his children was diagnosed with bone cancer and the other with lung cancer. He has been known to advise his colleagues in the Senate to use this method when dealing with an illness in the family.

Obviously, powerful senators can do things the rest of us cannot. Again, from the article:

Mr. Kennedy can tap leading doctors for answers in a way few patients could. His celebrity status aside, he has spent a career promoting insurance and other ways to improve the health of Americans. And he has had a track record of being thorough and diligent in researching medical options when relatives or friends have fallen ill.

Nevertheless, despite Kennedy’s power and influence, there are ways in which the average person can imitate his example and seek second and third opinions on their medical care:

Several doctors not connected with Mr. Kennedy’s case said in interviews that they admired his resourcefulness in getting more opinions simultaneously. At the same time, these doctors said many average patients gained competent advice, without a command performance, by sending pertinent records to experts for their opinions.

Many patients search the Internet for medical information and ask that their scans and other data be sent electronically or by overnight services.

Then such patients visit, call or write the consultant.

The potential negative consequence of all this opinion-shopping is that people may focus on what they want to hear and disregard everything else. This is partly why the doctors quoted in the article strongly recommend actually meeting physicians whose advise you intend to take (rather than just sending records and receiving written responses). That way the physician can make sure your expectations are realistic and address your specific concerns.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
Washingtonian Top Lawyer 2011
Avvo Rating 10.0 Superb Top Attorney Best Lawyers Firm
Contact Information