- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In support of reader Terrence Watson’s case in “‘Sicko’ in Canada” (Forum, July 29), here is my true story. It proves the importance of freedom of choice for doctors and patients.

Without those freedoms in May 2001, I would be dead today. Under “Hillarycare,” today’s model for the liberals’ current proposal for government-controlled, just-like-Canada, health care, I would not have had freedom to choose my own doctors — yes, doctors — in a tight time frame to prevent imminent death.

Come with me through a calendar of emergency decisions. Ask what would have happened if, at each decision to bring in a necessary specialist, I had been required to fill out forms, plead a case and wait months for a faraway government bureaucrat to decide if my need was “important enough” to bump me to the head of the line or to waive even more paperwork.

In mid-May 2001, the onset of frightening, dramatic symptoms — including a 20-pound weight loss in just two weeks — forced me to get a full-scale physical for the first time in 25 years. A retired doctor friend, who suspected a tumor, recommended Dr. Christopher McManus of Arlington, whose schedule was full until August. My friend prevailed on him to “fit me in” within a week. Though he had intended only a 15-minute, “once-over-lightly” set of tests, Dr. McManus examined me for two hours on Monday, May 21.

He set up a CT scan at Arlington Hospital only two days later, and evaluated its images and the radiologist’s comments the same afternoon. He immediately called a prominent endoscopist, Dr. Suresh Malhotra, and scheduled a consultation the next day. Dr. Malhotra performed the endoscopy at Alexandria Hospital at 2 p.m. the following day. He did a biopsy on a golf-ball-sized tumor that blocked the bile duct next to the pancreas. If the blockage continued a week or two longer, the toxins then polluting my blood would have killed me. So he put in a stent to make the plumbing work for, at best, two months longer.

As both doctors had feared, the tumor was cancer. Within minutes of that discovery Friday, May 25, Dr. Malhotra called the office of Dr. John Cameron, the chief of surgery at Johns Hopkin’s Hospital, and one of the top surgeons in the U.S. who does the highly complicated and very dangerous “Whipple Procedure”: to cut out the tumor, reconnect all the plumbing, and put the patient back together again — while controlling bleeding from a massive wound many layers deep.

Dr. Malhotra persuaded Dr. Cameron to fit me into his surgery schedule and faxed to Hopkins all the findings and records. My wife, two adult children and I met with Dr. Cameron at Hopkins two weeks later. He visually evaluated my physique, answered questions, and remarked that the “Whipple” — named after a doctor who first made it work — was more difficult, in his opinion, than a heart-transplant. He scheduled the surgery for June 25. It was 100 percent successful.

Because of Dr. Cameron’s legendary skill and the superb pre- and post-op care at Johns Hopkins, in only six days I was released to go home. By Aug. 1, my wife and children and I were planning to leave for a scheduled week at the beach, as if nothing had happened to me.

Go back over the list of dates, doctors and procedures just given. Ask yourself: Could this amazing, lifesaving success have happened in Great Britain? Could it have happened in Canada? Or Cuba? From what we know of the dismal delays in socialized medicine, the answer is an emphatic no. I was free to choose, all within days, three excellent physicians — Drs. McManus, Maholtra and Cameron, and four urgently needed and complex procedures — a thorough physical examination, a CT scan, an endoscopy, and cancer surgery. And these physicians were free to give me their professional services on short notice, arrange hospital rooms, move me to the next level of expertise — and all of these decisions and actions without a roadblock from government bureaucrats.

The argument for “single-payer” health care, unless amended to endorse freedom of choice for patient and doctor, should be rejected by the court of public opinion and the U.S. Congress. Injecting a bureaucrat who can delay or veto patient and doctor decisions will not heal the health-care system. It will only kill the patients.

WILLIAM A. STANMEYER.

Great Falls, Va.

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