Must be more to the President George W. Bush arterial stent operation than we have heard so far. About the only conclusion fair to draw, in fact, is that not all the facts have been made public.
The Dallas Morning News has an op-ed page piece in the paper this morning by Dr. Marc K. Siegel defending the decision by Dallas heart doctors two weeks ago to stick a wire mesh stent into the former president's arteries to keep him from getting a heart attack. Siegel is a Fox News anti-Obamacare polemicist who tells people that medical studies are a socialist conspiracy to take away their health care. He cites among his other credentials that he rides bikes with Bush.
Bush's operation reignited a public debate about arterial stents ongoing for at least three years, spurred initially by a series of investigative articles by The Baltimore Sun, followed by a scathing report from the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. It's a money-and-policy debate wrapped around a science debate, with lots of science on both sides of a basic underlying question: Do doctors stick too many wire meshes in people's arteries?
Siegel apparently didn't think that was true for Bush. "The Affordable Care Act may be pushing us in the direction of one-size-fits-all medicine, but Bush's case demonstrates that a more personalized approach often still works the best," he wrote in the Morning News.
The Baltimore Sun stories were based on a guy in Baltimore who got kicked out of a hospital and was barred from practice by the Maryland Board of Physicians, according to the Senate report, for sticking way too much wire in people and getting paid way too much money by the government for doing it. The accusation was that he was putting the wire in people who didn't need it.
After Bush got wired two weeks ago, the Morning News carried an op-ed piece by two experts who said his stent was probably unnecessary. The question reverberated all over the blogosphere. Nobody says stents are useless. They save lives of people who have severe symptoms or who are undergoing heart attacks. The questions are all about people like Bush, who had no symptoms, according to the statements released by his own staff.
Two major studies since 2007 have indicated that drug therapy may be safer and actually work better for people who have some blockage in their arteries but not enough to produce physical symptoms.
In spite of my English degree from a real college 92 years ago, I may not be fully qualified to tell you whether you need a stent in your arteries. I could give you my opinion, but you would be required to sign lengthy release forms first. That's not my piece here.
What intrigues me is this: I do notice that at the end of last week when Siegel, the anti-Obamacare guy, was on Fox News venting about all this, he made this remark: "President Bush's people reached out to me, and I found out some facts about this case that are completely in the opposite direction."
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So did that really happen? Did George W. Bush's people ask this Fox News whack-job to go on TV and say Obama's trying to deny our 28th amendment constitutional right to arterial stents? I have a message in to the former president's office. I will let you know when they invite me over for a fireside chat. In the meantime, who knows? He could have dreamed it.
In the meantime in all the blogalizing the consensus seems to be this: If Bush truly was as asymptomatic as official statements have indicated, then there is legitimate mystery in the decision to take him straight from his stress test at the Cooper Fitness Center to Presbyterian Hospital for an invasive procedure. If his condition was actually more threatening than the statements have let on, then there's no mystery.
Somebody is feeling very uncomfortable with the debate itself and pressure is being brought to bear. Witness the decision of the News to allow this Fox dude to appear on its op-ed page today posing as Louis Pasteur. But who is it really who wants to stir the issue? The former president's people? The docs who stuck the wire in him? The International League of Stent-hating Socialists? Stents-R-Us?
Say this for the Fox guy: By making it a debate about Obamacare, he has at least given it a nice news hook. With legs like that, maybe this story can become the Benghazi of heart stents.