While I was President of Orb Films, there was considerable controversy over the motives of the whistleblowers in our films. Some decried that they were pursuing revenge, or rumormongering, or clamoring for attention. All of these accusations distracted the public from the real issue at hand, which was improper incentives, which unintentionally allowed hospitals to profit through unnecessary surgeries and premature discharges. I wrote this op-ed, published in the Fremont Argus, to remind us all that this does not have to be an adversarial issue; it is a matter of a conflict of interests that needs to be addressed, for the health of our doctors, our patients, and our community at large. Full text below.
In light of the recent whirlwind of responses to the film Life for Sale, I want to stress that the film was never intended as an attack on any institution, hospital, or clinical agency. The identification of a specific hospital where something so appalling as the issues described in the film occurs was only used to demonstrate and buttress the legitimacy and reality of the patients' testimonies. People, places, and events in the movie are not vague, nonexistent, and unimportant. The intricate and shocking details of every patient's experience only serves to highlight the issue as a significant and current predicament in today's national healthcare system.
What we intended and still intend to focus on is the law, and the definite and lethal drawbacks of the Healthcare Quality Improvement Act of 1986. Giving hospital administrators that much power – immune power (which can be likened to absolute power) – is egregiously unhealthy for anyone associated with or patronizing the healthcare system. There are unequivocal and particular problems with the law, and our film exposes those problems in a humane, inquisitive, unfeigned manner. Although those who choose to abuse this legislative loophole should nevertheless also be held accountable for their detrimental actions, we hope in all sincerity to ameliorate the problem, not to exacerbate it by initiating a reputation-smearing public relations war. We work for the best interests of all people, including those who administer healthcare.
Many hospital administrators, if not all, are forced or at the very least pressured and encouraged to initiate such cost-lowering and revenue-producing procedures (such as premature discharge and unnecessary surgeries) due to the need to keep financially afloat in an economy of rapidly closing hospitals. Their intention may very well be to keep hospital doors open for the general public, at the unfortunate and sordid expense of some patients' lives and health. By looking at the possible solutions to this issue in a practical manner, one must submit to the truth that even having a deplorably substandard hospital is better than not having one at all.
Consequently, instead of working against hospital administrators to change the law, we patient advocates should be working cooperatively with hospital administrators to change the law, in protection of the patients' freedoms to live without the risk of being a fatal economic statistic, physicians' freedoms to work without pressure to harm, nurses' freedoms to give the highest quality of care to their patients, and lastly, hospital administrators' freedoms to administer without the improper financial incentives to harm people and potential subsequent pressure from their colleagues to do so.
Today, we have been commissioned to take on a work that is national, highly bureaucratic, and massive in scope. We cannot do it alone. We must do it together. Every individual who knows about this issue can now be held responsible to inform and motivate their neighbor to make a difference alongside them. Every new voice can save a new life. Find out how to join Patient Advocate, Inc. by visiting savethepatients.org. Lives and livelihoods are at stake.
Orb Films Productions