Thursday, July 8, 2010

Alcor's Chief Medical Advisor Displays Lack of Knowledge, Regarding Vascular Cannulations

In a recent Cryonet post, Steve Harris MD responded to my remarks regarding femoral cannulation, with this:

"Cannulation in medicine for femoral bypass is done on patients with a good blood pressure, and this is true even if the patient is intended to be cooled later. That means the arteries are pulsatile and pinkish white, the veins properly blue and fat with pressure, and everything looks like an anatomy diagram."

I repeated what Harris wrote, to my husband, (who has no medical experience), and he said, "That makes sense." I responded, "Yes, to someone who doesn't know much about cardiovascular surgery and perfusion, it does." That's what really bugs me, about Harris and some of his buddies. They SEEM like they know what they are talking about, even when they don't, and I'm sure they are very convincing, to laymen. Harris has posted a lot of inaccurate information, in response to my criticisms of Suspended Animation. I used to think he was being dishonest, now I'm beginning to wonder if he simply doesn't know what he is talking about, when he makes these mistakes.

The truth is, cardiovascular patients with good blood pressure are almost always cannulated via the right atrium and aorta, NOT femorally. Femoral cannulations are usually reserved for urgent cases (such as patients undergoing cardiac arrest, who have little-to-no pressure), or other special cases (such as "re-do's"). Many times, I've seen patients who were brought to the cath lab already in cardiac arrest, (on occasion, with someone straddling them in the gurney, performing CPR), or patients who suffered cardiac arrest while undergoing procedures in the cath lab. I've witnessed these patients undergo emergency femoral cannulation, so they could be placed on a CPS device, (a portable perfusion circuit). The professionals who performed those cannulations, (on patients with little-to-no blood pressure), performed them skillfully and within minutes. So, why would Harris paint that rosy little image of surgeons in conventional medicine settings having the ideal conditions, when performing femoral cannulations, when the reality is that femoral cannulations are frequently performed under very stressful, and less-than-ideal circumstances? In cryonics, the person being cannulated is already dead, (presumably, with DNR orders, in place), but in conventional medicine, a surgeon performing a femoral cannulation may have the life of someone who has already "coded," (and who has not expressed a willingness to leave this lifetime), in his hands. Harris seems to want to make the conventional medicine scenario out to be a walk in the park. Is he misrepresenting the situation, on purpose, or is he really that ignorant, in regard to cannulations performed in conventional medicine?

Harris went on, to write:
"In cryonics, femoral cannulations are considerably more difficult...In such circumstances it's surprisingly hard to tell veins from arteries. I think most surgeons would be shocked, but I doubt that many vascular surgeons have ever tried it..."

don't mean to be rude, truly I don't, but when I read nonsense like that, I really have to wonder about Harris' knowledge and/or integrity. Is his argument that, because femoral cannulations on patients with no blood pressure are "considerably more difficult," they should be performed by laymen who have received minimal training on pigs and/or dogs, (and maybe a few cryonics cases, spread out over a period of years), rather than by competent medical professionals skilled in performing vascular cannulations? Seriously, is that his position? That's absolutely ludicrous. Harris may have trouble telling veins from arteries, but most vascular surgeons, (and other professionals, who may assist them, such as physician ssistants), would not, even under the worst of circumstances. Most, if not all, vascular surgeons will have had cadaver experience, (including the dissection of arteries and veins), in med school, and cardiovascular surgeons will have many experiences cannulating patients with little-to-no blood pressure, over the course of their careers.

This is only one, of the MANY times, Steve Harris MD (Chief Medical Advisor of Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Director of Suspended Animation and Advisor to Cryonics Institute), has published inaccurate information. Below, are a handful of examples of past misinformation, posted by Harris:

As some of you might recall, Harris once wrote a post in which he insisted cardiac surgeons were being paid $50,000, per case, (and, no, it was not a typo). Having been a member of a cost-containment committee at one of the hospitals where I used to work, I knew that was grossly inaccurate. When I responded that a cardiac surgeon would be lucky to make ten percent of that figure, Harris responded by calling me names. He said I was a "nit and a naif," if I did not believe cardiac surgeons made $50,000, per case. Of course, at some point, he had to admit he was wrong.

He defended allowing laymen to have access to propofol, indicating it was justified, because the 200mg dose being prescribed would "keep people dead." As I've already stated, dozens of times, 200mg of propofol isn't enough to keep an average-sized person unconscious for more than a few minutes, much less dead. The propofol protocol just didn't make sense, (I mean, why risk people accusing cryonics organizations of dirty deeds, again, over a dose not large enough to achieve the stated goal?), but Harris defended it, and then turned it into something much worse.

Once, he posted a slew of blatant lies, about me, which he had heard from someone he was working with. He didn't even bother to say, "I heard...," or "Someone told me...," he made very specific, false statements, as though they were fact. The person who provided him with the lies publicly corrected them, and apologized, (on the advice of an attorney).

In his book, "Mother Melters" former Riverside County Coroner's Investigator, Alan Kunzman, claims Harris signed multiple copies of a death certificate, which contained false information. Kunzman says Harris' defense was that he didn't read the documents, he just signed them because someone associated with Alcor asked him to. Does Steve Harris simply do everything the people who pay him ask him to, without question? Is that why he is a "prominent person" in cryonics?

A little competence, integrity and professionalism might go a long way, in changing the public's perception of cryonics.