To The Editor:
I was deeply impressed and moved by Dr. Gary Kohl’s story, “Duty to Warn: How Big Business Runs the Healthcare Industry,” in the October 2018 issue of Westview News. My father was an internist from Germany who lived in the USA for 54 years, had an office in New Jersey as a General Practitioner and treated his patients with great care and attention. Although I do recall being the happy recipient of the endless trinkets, pencils, pens, erasers, writing pads, giant gold paperclips etc. that came in endless volume from the drug companies to Dad’s office, promoting Xanax and whatever other expensive pill they were selling, what I remember most is how much I admired my Dad and how proud I was of his being a good doctor.
He told me that when a patient came into his waiting room he had to consider that some cases would be matters of life and death. He made house calls to dangerous areas of Newark during the riots as well as any neighboring town to Springfield where we lived throughout his life in the States, even after he retired from his office. He diagnosed everything from Mad Cow Disease to cancer to dementia to pulmonary embolism to psychosomatic illness and much more. His stories amazed me. He had a daily walk-in policy in his office. If you were sick, you were invited to come in and wait in the waiting room without appointment—he would promise to see you that day. As he got older, he treated many seniors and claimed more and more that he specialized in geriatrics because most of the elderly patients he knew couldn’t afford to go to other doctors or they needed to see one immediately. He was the only one who would take everyone at short notice. He saw patients of every color, class, race and educational level and he made an effort to educate everyone. He complained bitterly about the problems his patients had with Medicare and Medicaid and what ineffective systems they were.
One day he announced to our family that Medicare had sent him a check for one cent. He talked about it for days and eventually framed it and hung it on a wall of his office. He wrote letters to the President of the United States beseeching him to improve the system. In some cases they were letters of criticism and outrage. Eventually, he became so fed up with how unfairly his patients were treated that he retired at age 73, unwilling to compromise to what he saw was a corrupt and uncaring system. Sadly, dementia claimed him and his brilliant mind in the 2000’s. To my horror, I read the contraindications on the medications that could cause dementia, the same pills his GP told me he had to take —what if he stopped taking them and he had a stroke? Could he function properly without psychotropic medications? Since his drawn-out decline and death in 2014 I’ve reflected on the things Dad shared with me…I shuddered realizing that the situation continued to worsen reading Dr. Kohl’s article. But I am heartened knowing Dr. Kohl exists and that there are people like him who will speak out and write in detail to educate others. This provides a window to hope and change, something my dad insisted we all had to be part of…or no change would ever happen.
My compliments to you all,