Letters To The Editor

Use metrics for populations, not individuals

Myron R. Kanofsky, MD



Use metrics for populations, not individuals

Dr. Kanofsky’s commentary on CD metrics is 100% correct. As an ethical question for physicians and society alike, I would ask, is applying metrics to physicians even moral?

As an ObGyn for most of 4 decades, my approach to obstetrics has not changed. In some years, my CD rate was very low, and in others my rate was average. Women must be treated as individuals. Although the industrial revolution increased quality and decreased costs in manufacturing, I do not believe that we can or should apply those principles to our patients.

Government regulators, insurance companies, and many physician leaders have lost sight of the Oath of Maimonides, which states, “May the love of my art actuate me at all times; may neither avarice nor miserliness…engage my mind,” 1 as well as Hippocrates’ ancient observation, “Whatsoever house I may enter, my visit shall be for the convenience and advantage of the patient.” 2 In addition, in the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath that most schools use today, physicians swear to “apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required...” 3—not to the benefit of the government, the federal budget, or an accountable care organization (ACO).

Clearly, the informed consent of a 42-year-old who had in vitro fertilization and has a floating presentation with a low Bishop score and an estimated fetal weight of 4,000 at 40 6/7 weeks must include not only the risks of primary CD but also the risks of a long labor that may result in a CD, the occasional risk of shoulder dystocia, or third- or fourth-degree extension. Not having had a case of shoulder dystocia or a third- or fourth-degree in more than a decade clearly justifies my rationale.

The morbidity of a multiple repeat CD or even a primary CD in an obese woman is significantly more risky than a non-labored elective CD in a woman of normal weight who plans to have only 1 or 2 children. We must individualize our care. Metrics are for populations, not individuals.

Health economists who aggressively advocate lower cesarean rates accept stillbirths and babies with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, cerebral palsy, or Erb’s palsy as long as governmental expenditures are lowered. Do the parents of these children get a vote? The majority of practicing physicians like myself feel more aligned with the Hippocratic Oath and the Oath of Maimonides. We believe that we have a moral, ethical, and medical responsibility to the individual patient and not to an ACO or government bean counter.

I would suggest an overarching theme: choice—the freedom to make our own intelligent decisions based on reasonable data and interpretation of the medical literature.

One size does not fit all. So why do those pushing comparative metrics tell us there is only one way to practice obstetrics?

Howard C. Mandel, MD
Los Angeles, California

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