President Obama managed to offend two very powerful interest groups during his press conference on Wednesday night: the National Fraternal Order of Police, who did not take well to the suggestion that the Cambridge Police Department had acted "stupidly" in arresting a Harvard professor for disorderly conduct; and, even worse, otolaryngologists whom he falsely suggested enjoy frivolously removing young people's precious tonsils.
It is one thing to be accused of poor police procedure or even racism, but to be labeled a reckless tonsil-harvester is a smear from which few recover. Here is the vicious speculative falsehood that President Obama uttered during his rather long and lecturey talk with the press:
Right now, doctors, a lot of times, are forced to make decisions based on the fee payment schedule that's out there. So if ... your child has a bad sore throat, or has repeated sore throats, the doctor may look at the reimbursement system and say to himself, "You know what? I make a lot more money if I take this kid's tonsils out."
Now, that may be the right thing to do. But I'd rather have that doctor making those decisions just based on whether you really need your kid's tonsils out or whether it might make more sense just to change -- maybe they have allergies. Maybe they have something else that would make a difference.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) hastened to release a statement expressing its grave disappointment that the president would speak so capriciously of tonsillectomy, which, as a point of fact, may be a lot cheaper than treating allergies or whatever.
[T]he AAO-HNS is disappointed by the President's portrayal of the decision making processes by the physicians who perform these surgeries. In many cases, tonsillectomy may be a more effective treatment, and less costly, than prolonged or repeated treatments for an infected throat.
Thank heavens they cleared that up! Because most people, in their ignorance and fear of otolaryngologists, assume that such doctors are just a pack of tonsil-thieving weasels. When the president of the United States perpetuates this unfortunate stereotype, it just makes the job of a responsible and fair otolaryngologist that much harder.
Also, who is President Obama to speak at all on the topic of health care when he does not even know the proper course of treatment for chronic juvenile bronchitis? Whatever medical school he went to should have its license revoked.