There are many causes of the rise in drug deaths that The New Mexican recently headlined (“State sees spike in drug deaths,” Sept. 5). One — mostly ignored — is failed medicine.

I have been sick — and popping pain meds — for years, with an illness that needlessly went untreated. I endured multiple hospitalizations and ER visits, nearly died once and saw my life implode, while medicine was more my problem than a solution.

There seems no willingness — including by media — to acknowledge and address that medicine, by many standards, is broken, and that too many of us are being deprived of the care we need. Hospitals and clinics too often substitute glitzy TV ads depicting good care, rather than really delivering it.

Medicine — state and national — is overwhelmed, dysfunctional, unaffordable — often abusive and dangerous — as doctors quickly turn to pain management rather than the in-depth, thorough diagnostics many illnesses require.

Many doctors are untrained in real diagnostics; many physician assistants are insufficiently supervised, such as one who put me in the ER multiple times. Many doctors have, if old American Medical Association standards still applied, conflicts of interest; they repeatedly order tests at facilities they’re affiliated with and profit from those tests, as more germane tests are ignored.

As a nation, we are dodging a critical conversation about continuing to explode our population by 28 million to 30 million a decade, 92 percent immigration-driven and warned against by three presidential commissions, including one concerned about failing health care.

CIA data says the U.S. has 2.59 doctors per 1,000, fewer than most developed nations, where three and four doctors per 1,000 is common. Cuba excels at 8.19. In New Mexico, Los Alamos has the highest number of doctors — 2.15 doctors per 1,000 — far below the national average. Often, New Mexicans must wait months to see specialists. And, no, we shouldn’t steal other nations’ doctors to solve our own doctor shortage.

There is the 1 in 3 Americans — I’m one — who, according to the National Health Institutes, have genetic or epigenetic illnesses (caused by medical or environmental exposures), who are brushed aside and left popping pain pills to endure, as we grow ever-sicker.

Medicine is almost exclusively geared toward cancer, diabetes, heart disease, endocrine problems, arthritis — the “profitable fab five,” or illness that easily augments profits, but also illness as it was understood last century, not medicine redefined — as it has been — by genetic research, meaning medicine is, according to the National Institutes of Health, a staggering 19.2 years behind current research.

Those with epigenetic illnesses are — lacking a proper diagnosis — often made sicker by being given counter-indicated medications. Doctors, as they did last century, continue to depend solely on blood tests, but ignore genetic testing and detailed patient histories, without which diagnosing many illnesses is a fool’s errand.

How does such indefensible behavior fit under the “do no harm” oath?

Kathleene Parker lives in Los Alamos and writes nationally on environmental and immigration issues.

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