A candid interview with Doctor S
Doctor S is a summa cum laude graduate of one of the world's best medical schools. He is a general practitioner who spends half his time in his private clinic, and the other half as a public-medicine physician in Israel's Kupat Cholim system. He is an individual of rare integrity and a veteran of three wars. At age 63, he's still a renegade, and a medical version of a Frank Serpico. Therefore, we have to cloud his identity for obvious reasons, as you'll soon see:
LB: Dr. S, would you describe yourself as a religious person?
Dr. S: Not in your sense of the word. But, I have a strong faith in The Creator and tremendous respect for our Jewish heritage.
LB: From your standpoint, does emuna play a role in medicine?
Dr. S: It sure does, not only from the patient's angle, but from the doctor's angle. My atheistic colleagues are blind to their own deficiencies. It's literally impossible to cure without the Creator's help.
LB: Are you saying that for my benefit?
Dr. S: You know me better than that. A physician that doesn't recognize that he or she is a mere messenger of The Creator is probably arrogant and ineffective. Even worse, he or she is dangerous.
LB: Does that explain the recent scandal in an Israeli hospital where 12 doctors were arrested for experimenting on patients?
Dr. S: That and more. A physician with no emuna believes he has the right to give and take life, especially for the advancement of his own career and/or bank account.
LB: What type of experiments do they perform?
Dr. S: A surgeon may try a totally experimental procedure on a patient with no firm family backing or round-the-clock supervision, such as a neglected old person. If he succeeds, he gets fame, money, and a write-up in a medical journal. If he flops, they bury the patient and nobody cares. That's why you people are problematic.
LB: What do you mean?
Dr. S: Haredi patients are usually surrounded by a bevy of caring children and grandchildren, with representatives of the Haredi community that keep an eye on doctors. Most doctors won't toy around with a patient that benefits from strong family and community support.
LB: So the lonelier a patient is, the more vulnerable he or she is to experiments?
Dr. S: Correct.
LB: What happened 7 weeks ago when 4 Israelis died of flu vaccination?
Dr.S: The Health Department is working day and night to cover their bases, so I don't categorically know. Behind closed doors, I've heard that a bad batch of vaccine snuck its way into Israel.
LB: How can that happen?
Dr. S: Public medicine, especially here in Israel, is looking to save money. Frequently, procurement managers buy cheap batches of outdated drugs from the USA, and use them widespread here.
LB: Are you serious? How so?
Dr. S: Suppose that a certain antibiotic has long been outshined on the USA drug market, and the manufacturer is stuck with a big inventory; the same antibiotic is then offered to Kupat Cholim for a song. Now, all the doctors in public clinics here will be instructed to give this antibiotic to anybody that walks in the door.
LB: What do you have to say about antibiotics?
Dr. S: Use only as a last resort. We don't give the body a chance to repair itself. Many drugs destroy the body's ability to fight disease on its own. Nevertheless, I want to stress that when somebody has a strep throat with 104 F. fever, then you zap them with antibiotics - there's no other choice. But, I don't give antibiotics for the flu (unlike many of my colleagues that give antibiotics for anything), because they do nothing against viruses.
LB: Do you recommend flu shots?
Dr. S: No! Sometimes, the flu vaccine embeds viruses within the body that we don't know how to dislodge.
LB: What about alternate medicine?
Dr. S: Depends; it's wildcat, especially here in Israel, and you could fall into the hands of a quack. I do believe in herb medicine, grandma remedies, natural foods and diet, and good old exercise.
LB: What's your opinion on Ritalin for kids?
Dr. S: Do you ride horses, rabbi?
LB: Whenever I have the chance...
Dr. S: Then you know that a spirited horse is sometimes hard to break in, but once you do, you have a good mount. Giving a hyperactive child Ritalin is like drugging a horse instead of training it. No, I believe that caring and dedicated teachers don't need Ritalin solutions.
LB: Do you recommend regular checkups?
Dr. S: As long as you feel good, stay away from doctors.