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Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

Betty Ford changed much of how we think about medicine

By Dr. Kate Scannell
First published in print: 07/24/11

BETTY FORD never actually set foot in my medical clinic. But it sometimes felt that she was there, accompanying patients who were motivated to seek care because of her.

I was a medical student in 1978 when it was widely reported that Betty Ford had a problem with "addiction" to a variety of prescribed pills and alcohol. The news was shocking in that pre-Amy-Winehouse era when nobody spoke -- let alone sang -- about addiction and "rehab." In fact, had you told someone back then that you were "going to rehab," they may well have assumed you were planning to renovate your kitchen.  Read More 

When patients are treated like ATMs, conflicts sure to arise -- Medical Devices

By Dr. Kate Scannell
First Published in Print: 07/10/2011

A FEW weeks ago, I visited a hospitalized friend who was recuperating from hip-replacement surgery. While unpacking the deli items I promised to bring, he said, "Too bad! You just missed my orthopedic surgeon. He invented my hip replacement!"

"Really?" I said, almost spilling a carton of matzo ball soup.

"Yeah, he designed and patented it!" my friend bragged. "And he uses it in all of his hip surgeries!"

But I didn't feel as hip-hip-hooray about the news. An orthopedic surgeon inserting his patented, royalty-generating medical device into my friend's body as though it were an ATM card?

As a rheumatologist who'd cared for many arthritic patients needing joint replacements, I knew that the medical-device market was already steeped with tried-and-true hip replacement models. How could my friend have possibly evaluated the safety and efficacy of his surgeon's new -- and, undoubtedly, more expensive -- device? Was he aware that it had no known or knowable track record? What authentic choice did he truly have when consulting with his one-hip-wonder surgeon?  Read More