- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In “Reboot it, don’t loot it” (Opinion, Wednesday), Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., Louisiana Republican and also a heart surgeon, displays effective problem-solving and communication skills that he undoubtedly acquired while spending more than a decade training as a physician.

As a third-year medical student at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, I am watching the health care reform debate carefully and believe that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could benefit from an important lesson in medical education.

After two years of classroom-intensive study of the basic sciences, medical students begin learning the art of patient care through clinical clerkships. The first lesson learned about the myriad laboratory tests in our armamentarium to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of patients is that we treat patients - not lab values. For example, if a patient has an elevated calcium level, a medication could be administered to increase the excretion of calcium in the urine, thus returning the lab value to normal. However, if the excess calcium is present as a result of an occult malignancy, we have corrected the calcium without identifying the cancer. This is exactly what is happening to health care reform legislation in the Senate.

Mr. Reid’s patient is health care reform legislation, and its lab values are complaints from Democratic senators. He is responding to each aberrant result by placating the demurring colleague.

From $300 million in Medicaid money for Louisiana to a reduction in taxes on medical-device companies - many of which call Indiana home - to (possibly) stricter abortion restrictions for Nebraska, to a removal of the public option for Connecticut and Arkansas, Mr. Reid is attempting to treat the symptoms without making a diagnosis. From a “robust” public option to a trigger to an opt-out to a buy-in, the debate has descended into chaos.

In this medical student’s opinion, he will continue to have difficulty producing a cure until he returns his attention to the patient. Unfortunately, the only thing Mr. Reid seems interested in treating at this time is a different lab value - one that indicates nothing about the health of his patient and always reads: “60.”

NICHOLAS J. ROHRHOFF

Miller School of Medicine

University of Miami

Miami

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