Contrary to popular belief…all surgeons are not great…and that probably goes for your personal surgeon too. Almost all are adequate, most are good, some are excellent, and a very few would be considered great or among the best. Unfortunately, very few people go out and hand-pick their surgeon like they may do for their barber, baby sitter, or even their family doctor. Most of the time you are referred to a surgeon by your family care physician. He will assure you that the person they are referring you to is “very good,” or even “the best in town”. Referring physicians usually have some type of personal, or most commonly a financial relationship with the surgeon to whom they refer patients. Maybe the surgeon just took the referring physician and their family skiing inAspenand they are repaid by having all of the physician’s breast biopsy patients sent to them. If primary care physicians only referred you to surgeons they thought were the best, then 90% of all surgeons would be out of a job.
I work as team lead for the Neuro-Surgery department and I’ll tell you a true story of two surgeons. One surgeon…lets call him “Dr Goode” who was not only an excellent surgeon, but equally as good of a person. “Dr. Badd” on the other hand had all the ethics of a used car salesman and charm of rattlesnake, and was maybe only slightly better of a surgeon than an actual serpent. Dr. Goode was always busy, patients loved him, and everybody referred to him. Dr. Badd received most of his patients from the ER, and he performed surgery on almost everyone who came through the door regardless of prognosis or outcome. In contrast, Dr. Goode was up-front and honest with his patients. If any of his patients had a truly terminal illness and surgery would not greatly extend the lifespan or enhance the quality of life of his patient, he would tell them the truth and recommend hospice or comfort care. This was not always the popular route and some of his peers were quite unhappy with his honesty. Dr. Goode always strived to become a better doctor and he kept up with ever changing medical science. He decided to expand his scope of knowledge by undergoing extra training and education and eventually started doing spine surgery and other procedures usually reserved for orthopedic doctors. Well, the Ortho doctors were some of Dr. Goode’s biggest referrers. They suddenly felt that Dr. Goode was infringing on their business? This, coupled with a negative PR campaign by Dr. Badd, caused a large part of Dr. Goode’s referral business to dry up. And guess where all the referrals went… to Dr. Badd. These doctors were sending all of their patients to a surgeon they knew was not good, sacrificing their patient’s health and safety for the fear of losing money, all to spite a superior physician.
By the way, when one of these doctors had a family member or loved one that needed surgery…guess who they called?