By ANISH KOKA, MD
Mr. Smith has a problem.
He can’t see.
Even this cardiologist knows why. The not so subtle evidence lies in the cloudy lens in front of his pupils. He is afflicted with cataracts that obstruct his vision to the point he can’t really do his job refurbishing antique furniture safely. His other problem is that he hates doctors. He hasn’t had reason to see one for more than a decade. He’s 68, takes no medications, smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, and is a master of one word answers. He’s in my office because he needs a medical evaluation prior to his cataract procedure. Someone needs to attest to medical safety. I’m it.
He just wants to get out of here.
His annoyance of being in the office is justified. Cataract surgery is very low risk. Unless he’s having an acute medical problem, there is little to do. The problem is that in an age of high volume, super specialized care, the eye doctor can’t attest to this, and the anesthesiologists have little interest in finding out the morning of his procedure that Mr. Smith has been having more frequent episodes of chest pain over the last two weeks. Perhaps the chest pain is just acid reflux, or maybe it’s because of a pulmonary embolism related to the tobacco induced lung malignancy no one knows about. It’s possible, and highly likely, Mr. Smith will survive his cataract surgery even if he has a pulmonary embolism. Cataract surgery really is pretty low risk.
But the doctor’s ethos has never been to ‘clear a patient for a cataract’, it is to commit to the health of the patient. Mr. Smith deserves the opportunity to receive good medical care that isn’t made threadbare just because of the cataract surgery on the horizon.Continue reading…