Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bandaids for Gaping Chest Wounds

Last May, Suspended Animation Inc (SA), via their "consultant" and "Team Coordinator," Charles Platt, elected to send a golf pro/office clerk and two fabricator/designers to perform stabilization and transport of a Cryonics Institute patient/client. Not one of these three people had prior medical experience, and I don't believe any of them could be considered to be "experts" on the topic of cryonics, by any stretch of the imagination.

I worked with those three people, fulltime, for five months, and intermittantly, as a consultant to SA, for five months prior to that. During that time, I never believed any of these people to have a serious interest in the science of cryonics. I agree they are all generally "nice" people, but people shouldn't hold positions of responsibility because they are "nice," or because they are "loyal" to the person who hired them and established their extremely generous salaries, especially when the responsibility they hold is the lives of patients who have been placed in their care.

My interpretation of the SA case report and addendum for the CI case, as a perfusionist with a vast amount of experience, leads me to believe great harm was caused to that patient. When it comes to whole body perfusion, which the SA team attempted to perform, "something" is not always better than "nothing." SERIOUS damage can be inflicted on a patient, through the use of a perfusion circuit by unqualified personnel.

In my opinion, the person who hired these people, established their salaries, and sent them to take care of a patient, behaved FAR BEYOND irresponsibly. For the price of their one golf pro, SA could hire an experienced paramedic, or EMT, and retain a couple more to rotate call with that person. Instead, what does SA do in response to criticism over their handling of the CI case? They send the golf pro to EMT school. The problem with this is, even after she graduates, she is still just one person, and a person with very little experience, at that. Inserting IV lines into patients with no blood pressure can be a daunting task, even for those with many years of experience. How is this person going to gain the needed experience? I believe SA has only had one case in four years. This seems rather like placing a bandaid on a gaping gunshot wound to the chest.

It seems LEF should require SA to make better use of the funds they provide to that company, by hiring qualified, experienced personnel. Sending a golf pro they are already paying significantly more than the average EMT earns, to EMT school, rather than retaining a small group of experienced EMTs and/or paramedics, to rotate call, for the same amount of money, seems like a continuation of a very long string of poor management decisions made at SA.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

SA's New Director

Quote from SA's February 13 News Bulletin, which has still not been published on their website, as of March 22:


Suspended Animation is pleased to announce that Steve Harris, M.D., has joined our Board of Directors. Dr. Harris, who is President of Critical Care Research, has been a medical advisor and consultant for Suspended Animation for a number of years and we are glad have him as a Director. His biosketch is posted on the Suspended Animation website."

Note: Keep in mind that the people who made Steve Harris the "President of Critical Care Research" are most likely the same people who have now made him a "Director" of SA. Either one of those decisions is most likely only as good, (or as bad), as the other.

Here are some excerpts of SA's new Director's Internet postings on :

"When an anonymous ignoramous with no medical knowledge gets on the nets and starts giving fatal medical advice, there are many appropriate types of responses. Calling them a son of a bitch is one.

Steve Harris, M.D."

"Now I'm calling you an asshole. And a dickhead. You and your libel lawyer can go over those words, and figure out how you're going to prove to a jury that you're not either one. Actually, I hope you see a lawyer about all this. And have to pay a retainer. Perhaps he'll note to you that accusing me of malpractise in public actually is actionable, whereas my calling you a son of a bitch is not. And why. It'll be quite educational for you. Prick.

Steve Harris, M.D."

"I await the AMA's learned decision. And do be sure to include the entire context of the exchange, so that the folks at the AMA can take the opportunity to call you a cowardly asshole themselves, "Cinque".

Steven B. Harris, M.D."

"In your dreams, you medical misinformation-spreading anonymous cowardly cretinous creep. P.S. You're still a son of a bitch. On this matter, feel free to quote me to anybody you like. The AMA, the CMB, the AFL...Cinque, may you jump in a lake and be unable to swim, and may your mother be unable to summon help, as she runs, barking, along the shore.

Steve Harris, M.D."

Steve Harris used the excuse of "being human" as justification for his behavior, but I know dozens of physicians, and hundreds of humans, quite well, and I don't personally know anyone else who behaves as offensively, and unprofessionally, as he does.

Here's the new Director of SA falsely accusing me of stealing a form that never existed:

If you can tolerate his offensive style of writing, and have the patience to dig through his posts on the "Cold Filter" forum, you can also find him falsely accusing me of not addressing the cannulae at SA, not updating the standby kit that would be used for patients (the "A" kit), giving SA the "run around" about my past employment history/case experience, and perhaps a few more things. You can also find him admitting, on more than one occasion, that he had no way of knowing what went on, on a daily basis, at SA, while I was there. Therefore we can only be left believing this man made false accusations against another medical professional, based on gossip. I believe he and Charles Platt, (someone who did work at the SA facility while I was there), were working together, at the time, so make your own assumptions about where Harris' information came from. Now, read Charles Platt's statement, regarding those accusations:

I. Ms. Maxim did present her CV/resume to SA, via email, in February 2006. At no time during her affiliation with SA were her employment history, or credentials, questioned by myself or any other party, to the best of my knowledge. Ms. Maxim never refused to give information about her past work as a perfusionist, and I have every reason to believe she would have provided additional references and/or information, had she been asked.

II. I cannot recall whether Ms. Maxim signed a nondisclosure agreement, and I have no way of knowing where various documents were kept at SA. Therefore I have no evidence to suggest that she removed such documents from the office. If my past speculation implied improprieties on her part, I apologize.

III. Although Ms. Maxim was not hired initially as General Manager, she proved to have such exceptional people skills, modesty, and balanced judgment, I have become convinced that she would have been the best possible manager, and I deeply regret that I never had the opportunity to work for her personally.

IV. The perfusion circuit in the "A" kit was not an "old version" when Ms. Maxim resigned from SA. One month after she became a fulltime employee, she and another SA employee replaced the circuit in the "A" kit with the perfusion circuit Ms. Maxim had designed for SA, as a consultant. The new circuit included a hardshell reservoir and other modifications. My public statements that the circuit was an "old version" were based on the fact that the plastic holder for the circuit was the old version. The holder, in no way, affects the performance of the circuit, and would have been fine the way it was.

V. Ms. Maxim did offer valuable advice, regarding cannulae, but unfortunately lacked authority to implement that advice by making substitutions in standby kits. I do not know which cannulae ended up in the kits at various times, but I certainly agree that Ms. Maxim was not responsible for the inventory when a case occurred five (5) months after her resignation.

VI. Immediately after her resignation from SA, I was dismayed and concerned when Aschwin de Wolf and Saul Kent told me that she would be unavailable for any future cases. I am delighted to learn that she is now available, and she would clearly be an asset who would be welcomed by any standby team. Since she was not asked to participate in the case during 2007, naturally I do not blame her for failing to do so, and I apologize if any remarks created this impression.

Charles Platt

February 12, 2008

If you weed through even more of Steve Harris' posts, you can find him calling me "a nit and a naif" for not believing the cardiovascular surgeons I worked with in the 90's were earning $50,000 a case. (The surgeons I worked with were paid $4,000 a case, about average, for the time.) If anyone is a "nit and a naif," it's Harris, himself.

You can also find him demanding I show HIM my credentials, six-to-eight months after I resigned from SA, when he had no authority at that company. I'm sure most people found this as unreasonable and absurd as I did.

I believe Harris was trying to imply he wasn't doing well as a physician, in outpatient geriatrics, in Utah, because no one was, in this post:
We live in an aging population, and he wasn't doing well in geriatrics? Why didn't he just move to Florida? I'm sure there are plenty of old folks to go around, here. My guess is, Harris shifted his focus to cryonics, rather than conventional medicine, for reasons other than a lack of geriatric patients, (and my guess isn't "commitment to the advancement of the field of cryonics").

Let's see...what else...

Oh...there's a post where Harris pretends like I was negligent for not connecting a blender and compressed gases to the vitrification circuit in SA's "operating room," a circuit that was a filthy prototype that included an oxygenator that had expired more than a decade before I worked there, and hasn't been manufactured in many years. Never mind that it has yet to be proven there is any benefit from administering oxygen, or any other gas, during the vitrification process. There was no need for compressed air, or a gas blender, to be connected to that circuit. Harris apparently didn't know how foolish he was making himself look, in his attempts to discredit me.

And, finally, the "kicker"...
SA was relying on Harris, as the acting medical consultant to talk a golf pro and two fabricators through performing whole-body perfusion, and other medical procedures, over the telephone, during Cryonics Institute's "CI-81" case. Harris stated he would have instructed the SA team to give more heparin, during that case, IF THEY HAD ASKED HIM. Does anybody reading this think an M.D. should believe a golf pro and two shop workers would know to ask??!!! Make note that in this same post, Harris takes credit for helping to design the protocols that call for a "whopping dose of heparin," yet he did not make sure the patient got that "whopping" loading dose, nor the required maintenance doses. (Heparin prevents blood from clotting.) Read all about it, here:


Keep in mind that not everyone who has the letters "MD" after their name behaves competently, responsibly, and/or ethically.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Becoming a Perfusionist

Getting into perfusion school was no easy task, and staying in was even more difficult. At the time I applied, there were only 14 schools in the entire country, (now there are about 20). The school I applied to, Baylor College of Medicine, accepted several hundred applications the year I applied, of which they considered 176 to be complete. Out of these, sixteen people were invited to the two-day interview process, and of these sixteen, only six were selected to attend the program.

I remember sitting in a classroom with the other interviewees, thinking, "What the hell am I doing here?!" As we went around the room, introducing ourselves, almost everyone else had previous medical experience, while I did not. In addition, everyone else was wearing black or navy, and I had on a very pale pink suit. (I always laugh and say that standing out in the crowd was what got me in, though I was told it was my GPA and personal interviews.)

I was so sure I would not be chosen, I enrolled in a full load of difficult classes at Sam Houston State University, majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry. (I had accidentally earned an Associate of General Studies Degree, while getting the prerequisites required to apply at Baylor.) Weeks went by, without any sort of notice. Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer, so I called Baylor to ask when the notices were going to go out. The receptionist put me on hold, then she picked the phone back up and said, "You're in." I started screaming and crying...seriously. I was so very happy.

Baylor took pride in graduating all the students in their program, while the other program in Houston, Texas Heart, probably the largest program in the country at the time, (I think they were taking 15 students twice a year), was said to brag that their attrition rate was 50 percent. Unlike the Texas Heart program that focused solely on perfusion technology, Baylor believed their perfusion students should have a more broad medical background. Our program overlapped with that of the medical students; we shared many of the same classes, and we did rotations in General Medicine, Geriatrics, Pediatrics, Surgery, even Psychiatry. (I'm not sure how spending my weekdays locked in a psych ward at the VA hospital for six weeks helped me as a perfusionist, but it certainly was interesting!)

Classes were extremely difficult, and we were presented with an overwhelming amount of material. In junior college, I had been accustomed to aceing my exams, now I was in a program where the highest grade on some tests was in the 60s! Thankfully, unlike my junior college, there was a curve, and the grading system was "Pass"/"Fail."

In exchange for the torture we had to endure, we were given every benefit Baylor had to offer us. We had complete medical care for ourselves and our families, including social services, at no cost. We had Yvonne who filled out any and all required forms for us, such as financial aid and loan forms, as completely as she could, before she passed them onto us. We were frequently given free theater and concert tickets, we had a budget for social gatherings, and we received endless moral support from the faculty. Still, it was difficult, and one of my five classmates had to attend a semester after graduation to retake one of the classes.

As my program required, I completed 100 cases before my graduation, including one performed by the great Dr. Michael Debakey who had come out of retirement to operate on a friend. This was perhaps the last surgery for which he was the primary surgeon, and it was an honor to be there. Even with 100 supervised cases under my belt, walking into an operating room, alone, was still a little intimidating. I would say it took a few more dozen cases, after my graduation, before I really felt at home behind that pump, alone. There are so many things that can go wrong, and perfusion really is a skill that must be practiced, just as flying an airplane.

A person could read every book ever written about perfusion, and practice in a wet lab for the next few decades, and they would still not be prepared to perform whole body perfusion, independently. This is why I get so upset when I read about a cryonics organization sending fabricators, golfers, or other laymen for a weekend training session to learn an art my peers and I struggled to become proficient at. The thought of these people actually attempting to perfuse a real patient, when they had no experience, whatsoever, as they did for the most recent SA case, makes my blood boil. The fact that these people are being paid as much, or more than some experienced perfusionists makes this situation even more offensive. If a company has the funds to pay for medical professionals, they should hire medical professionals.