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letters | spotlight on double-booked surgeries

First serve the patient, not the bottom line

Your Spotlight story “Clash in the name of care” raises a serious clinical and ethical problem.

The practice of medicine has historically been committed to the care and well-being of the patient as the primary responsibility of the physician. That was before the business and corporatization of medicine became the dominant force in the practice of medicine.

Your report made clear that patients have become commodities for the generation of profit, and that treating as many patients as quickly as possible has become the norm.

The case of the patient at Massachusetts General Hospital who is now paralyzed is an example of this mentality. While we will never know if his condition is a direct consequence of his surgery having been double-booked, we can say, at least, that the situation is troubling.


In our estimation, the hospital, its board, its business and medical administration, and our health care system have lost sight of their most fundamental responsibility, which is to serve the patient.

For calling attention to these concurrent surgeries and the concerns they raise, Dr. Dennis Burke has been victimized, having been denied privileges at MGH.

This report challenges us to reconsider the business model for the future of medicine.

Dr. Carol C. Nadelson, Brookline

Dr. Howard A. Corwin, Naples, Fla.

Nadelson is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and past president of the American Psychiatric Association. Corwin is a retired professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine.