Broken Trail of Promises at the VA Hospitals


It was reported last week by CNN that at least 40 veterans have died waiting for treatment at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System. They revealed the secret list that patients were shuttled to when they didn’t have time nor room to serve them They did this to hide the fact that thousands of veterans were waiting months to get an appointment. The whistleblower was a previous VA physician, now retired.  I have seen multiple reporting’s of botched treatments, long waits, dirty conditions, and overcrowding, but this is the most disturbing and striking so far.

Two years ago the information about misapplied radiation treatments in the VA in Pennsylvania began to surface. But, it was not reported in the news media for several months. Then  another story of a radiologist in Jackson, MS accused of not reading X-ray’s and CT images or reading them too fast in order to improve his productivity.  He was being paid by the number of procedures he interpreted. Following soon after came the report of overcrowding and unclean conditions at the VA facility in Washington, DC. In Pittsburgh, six patients died and 20 more became ill after an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease due to contaminated water.  The hospital and staff knew about it, but the veterans and families were never told.

Now we are hearing about Phoenix and that the officials at the hospital not only tolerated this scheme, but openly defended it. The case of the Navy veteran, Thomas Breen, brings it all home as the VA hospital in Phoenix called one week after he died with his appointment time. The VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, typically within 14 – 30 days. But the system is overwhelmed with the numbers requiring treatment and in order to meet the regulatory demands, elaborate schemes were used for reporting to Washington.

The Phoenix VA’s “off the books” waiting list has captured the attention of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee in Washington. The chairman is investigating delays in care that are reported across the country. At this time when veteran’s suicides are at an all time high, it is unthinkable that real human medical professionals could exhibit this behavior. The system is broken. The number of claims pending for disability compensation from the VA is also at astronomical heights. The normal processing time is more than 125 days. We owe these men and women our freedom!  We should be holding up our end of the bargain, both the legal one we promised, but also the moral promise that we would be there for them.

Debates Over Human Euthanasia

I am confused this week by the conflicting stories in the news. Just what is human euthanasia? When is it justified? Who qualifies for it?

Much press was given to the botched execution of the Oklahoma killer where the 3-drug lethal injection protocol failed.  I had a very hard time understanding how physicians or drug companies in charge of allotting the dose of the cocktail could not get it correct?  Instructions are available over the internet. And who did they have inserting the needle that they could not determine it was in the vein?  Or did the person who gave the injection push a large amount of drugs and blow the vein?  What kind of people were in charge here?

The second item of concern was the prescription for hospice drugs giving the formula: morphine+roxonol+elderly = death.  You may add some lorazepam or Ativan to the formula if you are agitated. End of life issues surrounding the use of morphine for pain relief by hospice is either categorized as euthanasia or a license to kill.  The chat rooms are filled with stories that will make you extremely nervous about hospice.

The last story was of a 21 month old young child in Corpus Christi, TX who had no chance of recovery from a brain injury that required a risky surgery. She didn’t come back and she was in total organ failure, was left a quadriplegic, and had failing kidneys.  She had less than a 4 percent chance of living 12 months. The family agreed that it was best to remove life support.

That means, in Texas, the removal of her feeding tube and a slow and deliberate death. Nine days the family had to watch.

Euthanasia is a slippery slope but what kind of society is concerned over whether a criminal ends his life in a humane way, but would allow a small child to suffer for 9 days?  Who decides what dose of morphine a dying patient should have to ease their pain from this life to the next?

Many of our laws must change. The realization that multiple states have already had this discussion and implemented help for patients and families must be considered. What do you think?Image