By Suzanne Gordon
March 15, 2015
This past week, I spent two and a half days at a conference put on by the Lown Institute on Right Care in healthcare. The Lown Institute was started by cardiologist Bernard Lown who has done critical research on sudden cardiac death, developed the direct current defibrillator for use in resuscitation when there is a cardiac arrest, and pioneered other critical cardiac treatments. In 1962 Lown founded Physicians for Social Responsibility and in 1980, with Russian physician Evgeni Chazov, Lown founded International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. In 1985, the two were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I had the privilege of working with Bernard Lown as well as other physicians like David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler of Physicians for a National Health Program, (PNHP in the mid 1990’s when they created a group of physicians and nurses who launched a protest against Managed Care. This Ad Hoc Committee to Defend Health Care created a movement of some of the most prominent physicians and nurses in Massachusetts who encouraged their colleagues to sign a letter — For Our Patients, Not for Profits: a Call to Action –protesting the increasing corporatization and marketization of American healthcare. The letter, with its 2300 signatures was published in JAMA on December 3, 1997.
Several years ago, Bernard Lown founded the Lown Institute, which is now directed by physician Vikas Saini and journalist Shannon Brownlee, who is the author of the excellent book Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer. The Institute is trying to create what it terms Right Care and is asking those who provide healthcare services to join a Right Care Movement. As the website puts it: “Performing unnecessary medical tests and treatments is unethical and unacceptable. In signing this document, we join the call for the medical profession to renew its sense of duty and commitment to patients. We call on health care leaders to recognize their ethical obligation to put patient care first.”
At the conference physicians, nurses, policymakers, foundation executives, and patients and patient advocates spoke about the epidemic of unnecessary care that puts patients at risk while making insurance companies, some physicians, and pharmaceutical and medical device companies ever wealthier. The group is calling for a Right Care Action day in October.
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