"Will Congress act to save taxpayers billions of dollars–and protect the solvency of the Medicare programs–by taking on the AMA, the drugmakers and the insurers? Don't hold your breath."
"Instead of being held hostage to a corporate system based on profits and price gouging, with Sanders' Medicare-for-All plan we can finally have a system based on patient need, with a single standard of quality care for all, regardless of ability to pay, race, gender, age, or where you live," said National Nurses United executive director RoseAnn DeMoro in a statement on Monday. "That's a beautiful thing."
"You know why we can't do what every other major country on earth is doing with healthcare? It's because we have a campaign finance system that is corrupt. We have Super PACs. We have the pharmaceutical industry pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaign contributions and lobbying, and the private insurance companies as well... Let me just add this (on the opioid epidemic), there is a responsibility on the part of the pharmaceutical industry and the drug companies who are producing all of these drugs and not looking at the consequence of it. It is whether we have the guts to stand up to the private insurance companies and all of their money, and the pharmaceutical industry. That’s what this debate should be about."
Republicans have traditionally been pawns of the private healthcare lobby that includes the American Medical Association (representing physicians) and private insurance companies.
However, the lobby also kept the Democrat-controlled Congress of 2009 from including a "public option" in the Affordable Care Act.
A third public option in addition to Medicare and Medicaid would have forced private insurance companies to compete with the government (explained below, under Who Were the Winners from the Healthcare Expansion).
Do you think Sanders will effectively use Teddy Roosevelt's Presidential "Bully Pulpit" to create real political change in America? Let us know in the comments.
Under The Influence:
What is Single-Payer?
NY Times (2009): American Medical Association Opposes Single Payer
American Medical Association: Opposing Healthcare for All Americans since the 1940s
Private Insurance Failure vs Single Payer Healthcare: The failed promise of the Affordable Care Act
Wendell Potter on GOP candidates and the Faulty Five: Any Republican sent to Washington by voters in 2016 will bring along these recycled – and flawed – health reform proposals
Potter on Why Health Care Costs So Much:
Elizabeth Warren: Change Can Happen, Quit Bedding with Billionaires
Bernie Sanders: Getting Between Wealthy Cultural Institutions and the Next Overdose Epidemic
Failing Appalachia: Closed-Minded Politicians, American Cultural Institutions
"We need a commissioner who will stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and protect American consumers. Dr. Califf, you are not that person." – Senator Bernie Sanders
Do you know that the United States has, by far, the most expensive healthcare system and prescription drug prices among developed countries?
Despite passing of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), insurance prices are still through the roof and a pain in the backside for doctors and patients.
The American healthcare system is last or near-last in health access, efficiency, and equity.
A survey by the Commonwealth fund found that only 16% of U.S. doctors said the healthcare system works well. Especially concerning to the author of the study, Robin Osborn: "One in four U.S. primary care doctors don’t think their practices are prepared for the sickest patients, especially when we have so many Americans with multiple chronic illnesses who may get sicker as they age."
Below are two charts from Mass General's ProtoMag to help explain why Americans–both patients, physicians, and aspiring physicians–are unhappy.
click to enlarge
JAMA: Over a quarter of physicians in training (28.8%) meet criteria for depression or suffer from depressive symptoms and prevalence is increasing according to a meta-analysis published in the December 8, 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
WSJ: Why Doctors Are Sick of Their Profession. American physicians are increasingly unhappy with their once-vaunted profession, and that malaise is bad for their patients.
Physician Suicide in the U.S.A.
That No One Is Talking About It
Not only physicians: Tons of college graduates have life-altering student loan debt and few hopes for achieving the American Dream, a meaningful life in a society of growing inequality.
STAYING IN FOCUS:
Single Payer Healthcare & Insurance Costs, Student Loan Debt, Pharma Price Gouging, Mental Health Care
PBS NewsHour: What You Should Know About Berniecare
Fiscal Times: Sanders Says For-Profit Healthcare Has to Go
NY Times: Even Insured Can Face Crushing Medical Debt, Study Finds
NY Times: ‘I Am Drowning.’ The Voices of People With Medical Debt.
Childhood Poverty in the United States Among the Worst in the Developed World. Effects on the Brain here
Pharma, Prescription Drug Costs: Doctors, hospitals condemn out-of-control drug prices as Senate investigation begins
WSJ: Why the U.S. Pays More Than Other Countries for Drugs: Norway is an expensive place to live, but healthcare and medications are cheap
NPR: Epidemic that medicine made: Hepatitis C drug that costs $4/pill in India and $1000/pill in the United States is busting Medicaid budgets, leaving patients untreated
#RxProblem: Prescription Opioids => Heroin => Hep C. The Oxycontin Clan is the $14 Billion Newcomers to Forbes' List of Richest U.S. Families. See: What punishment did their company receive for starting America's opioid epidemic?
LA Times: The FDA can single-handedly reduce drug price-gouging. Why is it waiting?
FDA-Approved: Drug Corruption or Drug Naiveté? (video with links)
Mental Health Care: Getting in Touch with Consensual Reality
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: "Make health care a right of all people, not just a privilege." (See Sanders' speech in Congress)
Medscape Physician Lifestyle Report Health, Wealth, Weed, Burnout
HuffPost: Physician Burnout
High price of healthcare insurance deductibles
Student Debt in America: Lend With a Smile, Collect With a Fist
The next "bubble" to burst will be the student loan bubble unless concessions are made from the "Haves" to the "Have Nots" in America. These concessions must start with affordable healthcare and reasonable-priced prescription drugs and college education, huge drivers of debt in the United States.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is great because I cannot be denied health insurance for having asthma, a pre-existing condition. However, the cost of adding prescription drug coverage is sky-high and health insurance premiums have steadily increased since the ACA was passed.
"The people who figured out how to get rich off this expansion of government were the private insurance companies."
Remember, this is a system where both patients and physicians are unhappy. Who else benefited from the Affordable Care Act? "If success is measured by return on the dollar, the pharmaceutical industry made a killing. A win by pharmaceutical companies includ the swift death of drug reimportation. The industry argued on safety grounds." The "safety" argument is unacceptable catering to the pharmaceutical lobby.
Affordable Healthcare is a Must, Make Berniecare Happen
SANDERS: There is no healthcare system in the world that comes close to being as wasteful and beuraucratic as our system. Why are we spending 30% of every healthcare dollar on administration and bureaucracy? We should be putting that money into doctors, into nurses, into disease prevention, into keeping our people healthy.
Health Care Mergers Will Mean Higher Premiums
Private Insurance, Single Payer Healthcare Doesn't Need You
Why the Profit-Driven Market Model Doesn’t Work in Healthcare
Bernie Sanders Discusses the Need for Universal Healthcare:
SANDERS interviews FDA Commissioner Nominee: We can bring fish products and vegetables from farms all over the world but we cannot bring from across the Canadian border brand name drugs. You don't think we have the capability of doing that?
CALIFF: We have the capability, it would add additional cost and systems would have to be put in place to make it work.
SANDERS: Well, this is why, precisely, the American people are paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. It is beyond my comprehension that you're sitting here saying that we can bring in vegetables and fish from all over
END PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICE GOUGING
CDC Vital Signs report: "Heroin use has increased across the US among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Some of the greatest increases occurred in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes.
As heroin use has increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths. Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, and more than 8,200 people died in 2013."
Cracking Down on the Prescription Drug Problem without Harm Reduction...the Hidden Cost of the American Opioid and Drug War Fiasco.
Without adequately funding behavioral health and support systems for those addicted to opioids, government cracked down on pill mills and overprescribing, and implemented electronic prescription drug monitoring programs.
Forbes: The OxyContin Clan: The $14 Billion Newcomer to Forbes 2015 List of Richest U.S. Families
Massachusetts General: The Epidemic that Medicine Made
NY Times: How Doctors Helped Drive the Addiction Crisis
NEJM: Shifting Patterns of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Abuse in the United States
Hepatitis C may lie dormant for years and not cause harm to patients. However, when it become acute, it destroys the liver and kills those who have it. Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) is a new drug that can cure hepatitis C, but it costs $1000 per pill and is busting state Medicaid budgets. In India, the cost per pill is $4.
Result of an American healthcare system that inadvertently created a hepatitis C epidemic, raises fears about an HIV epidemic:
Made by Gilead Sciences, Inc., Sovaldi costs about $1,000 a pill, or about $84,000 ($90,000 for combo product Harvoni) for a patient on a standard, 12-week treatment schedule.
Do you realize how much it will cost to cure all the hepatitis C cases related to the epidemic that American medicine made?
In the second half of the video to the right, Bernie Sanders rattles off several pharmaceutical company settlements and asks, "Is fraud their business model?"
We have not seen novel drugs in mental health in ages.
Writer Andrew Solomon gives a dismal description of current psychiatric medications:
"I want to say that the treatments we have for depression are appalling. They're not very effective. They're extremely costly. They come with innumerable side effects. They're a disaster.
America, Don't Fight Mental Illness and Addiction with One Arm Behind Your Back
25-Year Old Talk Surveying Shamanic Medicine Previews Renaissance in Mental Health Research
Mental Illness, 1978 vs 2015. Any changes? Any better?
From Andrew Solomon's Ted Talk, Depression, the Secret We Share:
"I was struck by the fact that depression is broadly perceived to be a modern, Western, middle-class thing, and I went to look at how it operated in a variety of other contexts, and one of the things I was most interested in was depression among the indigent. And so I went out to try to look at what was being done for poor people with depression. And what I discovered is that poor people are mostly not being treated for depression.
If Standard Treatments are Unaffordable and Inaccessible, You Have to Research and Implement Safe Means of Resilience that Will Actually Be Available for Low and Middle-Income Americans
Solomon continues, "And so we have an epidemic in this country of depression among impoverished people that's not being picked up and that's not being treated and that's not being addressed, and it's a tragedy of a grand order.
Poverty linked to childhood depression, changes in brain connectivity: "Poverty is one of the most powerful predictors of poor developmental outcomes for children. Previously, we've seen that there may be ways to overcome some brain changes linked to poverty, but we didn't see anything that reversed the negative changes in connectivity present in poor kids."
Unfortunately, dozens of expensive talk therapy sessions will never be affordable for most low to middle-income Americans. Government nor insurance companies will ever be willing to pay for this intensive level of mental health care. Consider psychoactive plant medicines: If an appropriate clinical or ritualistic framework can be established, consider providing this type of therapy before stress or worries from life reach a crisis level.
Solomon continues, "But we've had a lot of trouble with Western mental health workers, especially the ones who came right after the genocide." I said, "What kind of trouble did you have?" And he said, "Well, they would do this bizarre thing. They didn't take people out in the sunshine where you begin to feel better. They didn't include drumming or music to get people's blood going. They didn't involve the whole community. They didn't externalize the depression as an invasive spirit. Instead what they did was they took people one at a time into dingy little rooms and had them talk for an hour about bad things that had happened to them."
The Veterans Affairs Healthcare System is arguably the best we have in the United States, yet even it cannot provide adequate mental health care to patients.
"There’s a reason there’s 10 different types of depression medication, because what works for you might not work for the next guy,” Jensen explained.
“There are other methodologies besides medications and expensive treatments that they can do themselves and have for the rest of their lives without spending a lot of time and money,” Yellin stated.
What is not being done that should be done?
Government should fund research of non-addictive classic hallucinogens, also known as "psychedelics," as well as cannabis. Schedule I drug laws preventing research of these medicines have been a great detriment to on neuroscience research and treatment innovation.
We must fully research the therapeutic potential of harmless substances that have been used for millenia before doing work with substances that kill and cause irreversible brain damage in clinical trials. The past decade has seen billions in dollars of lawsuits against makers of mental illness medications. In addition, we are in the middle of a tragic epidemic of opioid addiction caused by the pharmaceutical industry.
Therapy with hallucinogens could greatly reduce the number of sessions required. In turn, fewer sessions would mean money saved in a single payer mental health care system.
Reality: Mental Health Care is Simply is Not Available to Rural and Low Income Americans, a Population that Needs it the Most
Psilocybin: Could Psilocybin Be Useful in Combating Negative Effects of Loneliness in Homebound Older Adults?
NYU Psilocybin Playlist: See the NYU Psilocybin Playlist and Learn More About the Research
Boon for Neuroscience, Mental Health, Addiction, and Pain Research? Shamanic Medicines Want to Help a Broken and Addicted U.S. Mental Health Care System
Spread the word! Help author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss fund personal and groundbreaking psilocybin research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. ➡ SEE THE FUNDRAISER
"A recent but still unpublished study at Johns Hopkins demonstrated rapid, substantial, and sustained (lasting up to six months) antidepressant and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects of a single dose of psilocybin in psychologically-distressed patients with life-threatening cancer diagnoses. This is incredibly exciting. What if we could decrease or avoid altogether the known side-effects (and frequency of consumption) of current antidepressant drugs like SSRIs? This study could help establish an alternative.
Current popular antidepressant medications have significant adverse side effects, with up to 50% of patients failing to respond fully and as many as 30% remaining completely resistant.
Psilocybin has been safely consumed by humans for millennia. Despite this, the study of entheogens like psilocybin was blocked for several decades due to political rather than scientific factors. Now, we can finally explore the therapeutic and medical potential of these powerful compounds."
The work Tim is hoping to fund "will determine the efficacy of psilocybin in treatment-resistant depression, and will also use cutting-edge brain imaging to clarify the mechanism of action of psilocybin's antidepressant effects. In the world of science, it is a rare opportunity to be able to conduct such potentially groundbreaking work for a mere $80,000. It’s almost unheard of. Psilocybin has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of major depression that cannot be properly addressed with current treatments. This also applies to end-of-life care for terminally-ill cancer patients." (Follow Psilocybin and Cancer Research on Facebook).
"We think it looks like we're tapping into the basic biology of the human condition in which these salient experiences of interconnectedness emerge. And if you really sit back and reflect on it in the history of humankind, those are the kinds of experiences that really form the bedrock foundation of most of the world's religions and the world's ethical and moral traditions." –Roland Griffiths, Psychopharmacologist, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2015 Nathan B. Eddy Award Recipient College on Problems of Drug Dependence
U.S. Surgeon General Wants to Improve Emotional Well-Being Through Meditation, Gratitude Exercises, and Social Connection
We must do better in the United States and it could start with large-scale, culturally competent, government-sponsored research of classic hallucinogens and mindfulness. Both are archaic means of resilience that will not bankrupt the nation and provide immense help to every social strata.
Regions Involved in Moral Cognition, Empathy
Scientific American: How the Brain Purges Bad Memories
Psychology Today: The Brain Mechanics of Rumination and Repetitive Thinking
Pharmaceutical Journal: Psychedelics: entering a new age of addiction therapy
Blog: PTSD, Mindfulness and Psilocybin
Psychosocial Interventions for Mental and Substance Use Disorders: A Framework for Establishing Evidence-Based Standards
Science and Psychology of Classic Hallucinogens
MDMA psychotherapy to treat PTSD
America, Don't Fight Mental Illness and Addiction with One Arm Behind Your Back
FDA-Approved Drug Therapies and Classic Hallucinogens to Treat Alcoholism: Barriers, Background, and the Latest Research
HUGE Speaker for "Breaking Through," TEDMed 2015: Psychopharmacologist Roland Griffiths
Psychology Study Explains Psychedelic Ethics: Awe, the Small Self, and Prosocial Behavior
The New Yorker: Trip Treatment
Dr. Gabor Maté, M.D., discusses how ayahuasca offers addicts insight into self-destructive behaviors
Psychedelic Stroke of Insight for Smoking Cessation
Hofmann's Potion: "I thought this was the greatest discovery that man had ever made"
A New Understanding: The Science of Psilocybin
Will "The Coming Boom" in Brain Medicines Include Mental Health?
CARERS Act Could Justify Re-Scheduling of Psychedelics Psilocybin, LSD, Ayahuasca, Peyote
American Ethnobotanists Richard Evans Schultes, Dennis McKenna Discuss Hallucinogenic Plant Medicines, More
MassGeneral: Hallucinogens: A Trip to Therapy
Gordon & Tina Wasson Award Winner Paul Stamets Wins the Psilocybin Mushroom Wizard Award
Modern Stress on Prenatal Life: Autism, Inherited PTSD, Behavioral Disorders, Personality
Address to the Jung Society - Psychoactive Substances of the World
Psychedelics Reclassification & Research the Right Thing to Do For Mental Health? UK Psychiatrist James Rucker Thinks So.
Is Consciousness the Only Savior for a Changing America? Meditation Has People Believing
Science & Nonduality: Magic Mushrooms Work Like Meditation? The Latest Evidence
Science & Nonduality: Ayahuasca, Autism, Aging and the Default Mode Network…New Research
Courageous Heffter-Funded Work at UAB School of Public Health that Changes Perceptions & Could Change Your World
Individual States and an American Public Fraught with Addiction, Mental Illness, and Jail Time Looking to Alternatives
Fear & Hate-Based Ideology Past & Present Countered by Shock & Awe-Based Therapies, Past & Present
ASCO Post: Researchers Discuss Pilot Study on Hallucinogenic Therapies for Cancer Anxiety
End-of-Life Pain & Palliative Care as an Alternative to Physician-Assisted Suicide. Johns Hopkins Seminar Series
Ketamine vs. Psychedelics
Dr. Gabor Maté Talks Addiction, Culture, Ayahuasca... and Drug Policy
Top Ayahuasca Researchers Discuss Challenges and Achievements
Shamans of the Amazon: Ayahuasca, Politics, & the War on Drugs (1999) McKenna, Shulgin
Peyote: Last of the Medicine Men - Shamans of the Huichol People
Pahnke & Leary's 1962 Good Friday Experiment Explained by Psychology of Religion Expert Ralph Hood [Full Video]
Dr. Gabor Maté Talks Addiction, Culture, Ayahuasca... and Drug Policy
I remember thinking about this a couple of years ago as I sat for 11 hours, from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. on the dirt floor of a teepee. I was at a Navajo peyote ceremony in Lukachukai, Ariz. There were about 30 of us. Everyone but me had ingested a whole lot of peyote – the active ingredient is mescaline. It’s basically a psychedelic. I kind of wish I had as I watched everyone looking pretty happy, their heads bobbing to the beat of the drummers like little bobbleheads. But, alas, I was there to observe. So there I sat cross-legged for 11 hours.
Question for NIH Director Francis Collins: With the poor level of preventing and treating mental illness and substance abuse in the United States, is it unethical for NIH not to expedite the rescheduling of classic hallucinogens to facilitate their research?
Around midnight the woman who was the center of the ceremony broke her silence. Her name was Mary Ann, and she suffered from shingles. She had had it for a couple of months. It had gone untreated, and this was a healing ceremony. Around that time she confessed that 20 years earlier she had accidentally run over a man on the highway. She stated he was already dead when she ran over his head. But at any rate, for the past 20 years, a headless man kept haunting her dreams, and she wanted forgiveness. She wanted the peyote, which Navajos consider to be the mediator between the spirit world and the human world – she wanted the peyote to kind of broker the deal between this guy whose head she had run over and her.
So I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed that we may have just had a confession to vehicular homicide. Everyone was just smiling happily and nodding. A few hours later, after a lot more peyote, Mary Ann announced that the shingles were gone. She said, the spirit came before me and forgave me and now I’m healed.
I’m sitting there thinking, yeah, right, we’ll revisit this in a couple of days and see if the shingles are really gone. I called her a couple of months later, and, in fact, she had never suffered from shingles after that moment. I called her just a few days ago and it never recurred.
So what you’ve got here are three options: Door No. 1, there was a medicinal property to the peyote that cured her shingles; door No. 2, the relief that she felt from her vision reduced her stress and thus her shingles; or door No. 3, that she really did access the spiritual world.
Pahnke & Leary's 1962 Good Friday Experiment Explained by Psychology of Religion Expert Ralph Hood [Full Video]
NPR: The God Chemical: Brain Chemistry And Mysticism
Immunomodulatory Effects of Positive Emotions and Proposed Immune System and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Psychedelics
Peyote: Last of the Medicine Men
Chemically, they all look a lot like serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that affects parts of the brain that relate to emotions and perception. Now scientists at Johns Hopkins University have discovered that they all target the same serotonin receptor, serotonin HT2A. So what that receptor does is, it allows the serotonin or the psilocybin or the active ingredient of these psychedelics to create a cascade of chemical reactions, which then create the sounds and sights and smells and perceptions of a mystical experience. Essentially, they’ve discovered a “God neurotransmitter,” in a way.
So now they can get a sense of what happens in the brains of mystics or you and me when we have a spiritual experience. What’s really cool about this is that the war on drugs ended this sort of research for about 35 years, but now at Johns Hopkins and other places, the government’s allowing this to go on.
They’ll be able to give you a capsule of psilocybin, slide you into a brain scan, and actually watch spiritual experience unfold in an FMRI. This has really opened the door for understanding the brain mechanisms of spiritual experience.
So the question is, does that mean that God is just a chemical reaction? I think probably a lot of scientists would say, yes. But Roland Griffiths, who’s the researcher at Johns Hopkins, doesn’t think so, and he doesn’t think so for a couple of reasons. One is that people who have spiritual experiences can do this without help from their chemical friends, right? They can do it through meditation and prayer and chanting and fasting – all of these can spark spiritual experience. Second, he says it’s just as plausible that the chemical reactions and the electrical firings in the brain are reflecting an interaction with God or the spiritual realm.
Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance. Griffiths. J Psychopharmacology. Editorial & Commentaries. Press Release. Griffiths Q&A. 2006.
Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later. Griffiths. J Psychopharmacology. Press Release. 2008.
2011. Mystical experiences occasioned by the hallucinogen psilocybin lead to increases in the personality domain of openness. MacLean. J Psychopharmacology.
And he uses this analogy: He says, when you eat a piece of apple pie, all sorts of things happen in your brain. The part of the brain that mediates smell will light up or taste will light up. Probably the part of the brain that handles memory will light up as you think about the last time that you had a piece of apple pie. But does the fact that there is this predictable and measurable brain activity – does that mean that the apple pie doesn’t exist? Of course it doesn’t. So maybe, Griffiths says, this brain activity is chronicling an interaction with the divine.
He raises a third issue, which Francis alluded to, which is, why? Why are we wired to have mystical experiences in the first place? Is it possible that there is a God or an intelligence who’s created this way? I mean, if there is a God who wants to communicate with us, he probably wouldn’t use the big toe; he’d probably use the brain. Doesn’t it make sense that this is how God would communicate.
Now in the end, I don’t think science will be able to prove or disprove God, but I do think there’s a really fascinating debate – and I’m going to close with this – that’s circling around spiritual issues. We may actually make some headway about it. There may be a way to tackle this issue in a definitive way. It’s the mind-brain debate, or can consciousness operate when the brain is stilled
I just have one more story to tell you to illustrate a point. In 1991, there was a woman named Pam Reynolds. Have you all heard of her? She was found to have had an aneurysm on her brain stem. Her doctor told her that it might rupture at any moment and that she could die at any moment, and so she decided to undergo what was then a very experimental surgery called a standstill operation. She flew out to Arizona to a place called the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.
Essentially what they did was they put her under anesthesia, they taped her eyes shut, they put in molded speakers in her ears that emitted really loud clicks – about 90 to 100 decibels. That’s what a jet plane sounds like when it takes off. So loud clicks were firing in her ears. Then when her brain no longer responded to the clicks, the surgeons knew that they could proceed.
2014 Carhart-Harris Was it a vision or a waking dream? (A commentary on: Disrupting posterior cingulate connectivity disconnects consciousness from the external environment)
2014 Carhart-Harris How Do Hallucinogens Work on the Brain? The Psychologist Magazine. The British Psychological Society.
She could describe a very unusual-looking bone saw called the Midas Rex bone saw and the blade container. It’s unusual; it looks like an electric toothbrush, so it’s not something you see all the time. She heard conversations, including the one where a female surgeon said that her arteries were too small in the left groin for a tube and so the chief surgeon told the other surgeon to try the right side – she heard this kind of conversation. So she saw things, heard things even though her senses were apparently blocked.
And then she had a typical near-death experience – the white light, seeing the dead relatives, yada, yada, yada, yada. Now I’m not all that interested in the near-death experience, but her ability to describe the operation while under deep anesthesia when her eyes were taped shut and her hearing blocked – it raised a question for me: Was Pam’s mind or consciousness operating separately from her brain? I’ve heard dozens of stories about people who died on the operating table or in a car crash and felt themselves float above their bodies and claimed that they could see everything that was going on. I thought they were interesting, but not conclusive stories.
It’s entirely possible that their brains were operating and that this is what a brain does when it is shutting down – it creates illusions, it creates sensations. It’s entirely possible that this is normal activity that’s explained by material means. But Pam Reynolds’ story feels a little bit more compelling to me, probably not to a lot of you, but to me it does. For one thing, it’s corroborated. A doctor named Michael Sabom got all the hospital records and the transcripts from this operation and found that when Pam said something happened, that in fact did happen in the order that she suggested. It seemed to corroborate her account.
I interviewed the chief neurosurgeon, Robert Spetzler, who confirmed that she was in a deep coma for an hour and could not have seen or heard any of the operation. I asked him how he explained it, and he said that he “had absolutely no explanation from a scientific perspective.” He also said that this has changed the way he thought about reality.
I just want to conclude by observing that in my year of interviewing scientists, I learned something about scientists. When they hear of a case that they don’t like – one that doesn’t jive with their worldview – they call it just an anecdote. When they like a story, they call it case history.
Now most scientists would probably say this challenge to a materialist worldview is an anecdote. After all, Pam’s story could lead to the astonishing notion that somehow we have consciousness or maybe a soul that could survive death. Other scientists – in fact a growing number – will call Pam’s story a case history, something to be explored and not just so easily dismissed. But I’m sure of a couple of things. First, this question of consciousness is the next big battle in the emerging science of spirituality. And second, how a scientist comes down on the debate about consciousness will be as much a matter of his own belief system as it will be of the science."
on Opioid Maintenance, Harm Reduction, and Mental Health
Side-effects of drugs taken for insomnia and anxiety
kill thousands. Why do doctors hand them out like Smarties?
Top 10 Drug Company Settlements
Over the course of 20 years, Johnson & Johnson created a powerful drug, promoted it illegally to children and the elderly, covered up the side effects and made billions of dollars. This is the inside story.
Physician-Assisted Suicide. Johns Hopkins Seminar Series.
Living and Dying (Steve Jobs, Terence McKenna)