No hip hip hurrays here

An obit for Alfred Freedman, a psychiatrist and social reformer who declared homosexuality is not a mental illness, reported that he died from “complications of surgery to treat a fractured hip.” He was 94. I was incensed when I read it. Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a New York orthopedic surgeon, said my 86-year-old mother needed surgery when she broke her hip two and a half years ago. She died two weeks after the operation.

Alfred Freedman

The mortality rate one year following hip surgery in people over 60 is an astounding 25 percent. Complications include blood clots, infections, and pneumonia. My mother also had diabetes and osteoporosis, two other reasons NOT TO operate at her age. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn this until after her death.

When I brought it up with Dr. Schwartz months later, he mumbled a BS answer. At about this time, he advised my 81-year-old aunt to have surgery when she fractured her hip. Her Stage IV colorectal cancer had spread to her bones and an operation would have caused her even greater pain and misery. My aunt’s hip healed without surgery. Although she died nine months later from the cancer, she was spared unnecessary suffering. I couldn’t wait to get out of Schwartz’s office the day I talked to him about my mother and aunt. (Dr. was no longer a title he was worthy of, as far as I was concerned.)

Please take care of those you love, as well as yourself, and find the doctors who will advise you well. Unfortunately, great docs don’t grow on trees, even in New York.

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4 Responses to “No hip hip hurrays here”

  1. DocP says:

    I’m a family physician. Unfortunately, a hip fracture at an advanced age is often a no-win situation. The evidence is that it is more dangerous to be immobile for 6-8 weeks hoping for the fracture to heal than to risk surgical intervention in most patients. Blood clots and pneumonia both increase with longer immobilization. With surgery, when things go well, the patient is up and moving around within a couple or days. Not so with non-surgical management. For most patients (especially those who are otherwise high risk) surgery is truly the SAFER choice.

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  2. Duchesse says:

    This is a tough call. Some fractures will heal on their own and some will not. So, as a counterbalance may I introduce you to Phyllis, my good friend Lucinda’s mother? Fractured hip last fall, had surgery, unsuccessful, great pain. Second surgery (and physio), success. I have the photo of Phyllis stern-paddling a canoe last summer, aged 97, to prove it.

    Any surgery at an advanced age is risky, and sometimes the reasons to operate/reasons against are nearly equal. When things go well we are grateful to doctors and when they do not, we are angry and disappointed.

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  3. sharon Segal says:

    Geri, No one at any age wants to hear that they wont walk again. These Drs think they are God and that they know what is best. Drs only think of $$$$ not the patient. Lets hope we never get to that stage in our lives where such big decisions have to be made. Stay well! Sharon

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  4. Kate Line Snider says:

    Geri, I am so sorry about what happened to your mother. ( My mother died 12 years ago, and my father 5 years ago, and the pain is still there).

    So much unnecessary surgery is performed. Sad to say, some of it is at the request of patients or family members.I am witnessing this scenario right now in an elderly relative. In old age, it can be difficult to accept the fact that some things are over for us, and we search desperately for a remedy.

    It is criminally unfortunate that so many doctors are willing to go along with this.Just this morning, my 87-year old aunt expressed this same sentiment.

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