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Gastric Bypass: A Hospital's Newest Profit Center

Ever wonder why you've seen so many pieces floating around in the media about the miraculous, wonderful and unbelievable benefits of gastric bypass surgery? A brilliant piece in the Los Angeles Times (quickly growing into one of my favorite newspapers) connects the dots to uncover the real reason: These unnecessary surgeries -- that generate enough cash to keep many hospitals in the black.

For cash-strapped hospitals wanting to balance their budgets, the controversial benefits of gastric bypass are certainly a means to an end. More than 140,000 patients spent $25,000 apiece on their surgeries in 2004, generating revenues exceeding $3.5 billion. What's more, many private health care insurers don't cover the procedure, so the costs, and possibly a second mortgage, fall in the laps of patients, desperate for quick fix "cures" to their long-term health problems.

The Times piece focuses on how one area hospital is learning about the comforting touches I can imagine being practiced by many others across the country to "market" these procedures to the miserably obese:

  • Floor-mounted stainless steel toilets that can handle as much as 400 pounds.
  • Bigger furniture (as big as love seats) and extra-wide wheelchairs and gurneys.
  • Special scales that would otherwise be used in a warehouse.

Their efforts, unfortunately, appear to be paying off big time. The 433 gastric bypass procedures performed there generated 6 percent of that hospital's total income in 2003.

The other justification for doing the surgery: The alleged star power generated by famous celebrities like the Today Show's Al Roker, former Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson and American Idol judge Randy Jackson. Those before and after photos must really do the trick... What most patients don't hear about, however, are the not-so great stories about ordinary people who suffer needlessly. Like Patrick Deuel, the former half-ton man who celebrated the one-year anniversary of his gastric bypass surgery this week by announcing another surgery to remove excess skin...

If you're at all skeptical, a study I posted last year found 2 percent of all gastric bypass patients die within 30 days after surgery, not one out of every 200 often erroneously cited in the press!

And, if you think about it, Deuel lost the majority of his weight by doing two things:

One more thing: You may not make it very far, even with a healthier diet and and exercise plan, if you don't address the emotional issues that contributed to your problem. That's why it's crucial for you to learn how to use an effective energy psychology tool like the Emotional Freedom Technique, the one I use daily in my practice.

Los Angeles Times June 7, 2005 Registration Required

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