Personal and Medical Ethics: I Will Not Sell Snake Oil

By | June 13, 2012

There is a lot of money in snake oil, if you are willing to sell it.

I remember 5 years ago when I was making my decision to leave the hospital and open Schlesinger Pain Centers, the look of horror some of my friends faces and their suggestions that I reconsider going into such a disreputable field. I countered that my business model in private practice would be the same as when I ran the hospital pain clinic. I would not become a legalized pill pusher and I would not sell snake oil. When Steve told me that he was receiving the Kobe Bryant treatment, but not from a physician in Dusseldorf, but a physician in Santa Monica I was concerned that comparing the treatment of a 33-year-old star athlete and a man twice his age was a dangerous extrapolation. Kobe’s knees are likely to improve by themselves with just a few days rest. The same cannot be said for either Steve’s knees or his back. Furthermore these injections can cost several thousand dollars each, are usually not covered by insurance and expose the patient to a certain level of risk. Reports of excessive heterotopic bone formation resulting in spinal and foraminal stenosis associated with the use of BMP (Bone Morphogenetic Protein) in spinal fusions, would seem to beg caution in its use to treat lumbar facet arthropathy, but then again, there is a lot of money to be made in snake oil if that’s what you want to do.

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