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Segment 3 (Unnecessary Surgery) #495563

NBC Evening News for Wednesday, Sep 28, 1977
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(Studio) House committee will begin hearings next week on issue that is difficult, but urgent: major surgery, especially on women, that isn't needed. Person is somewhat helpless, when physician recommends surgery.
REPORTER: David Brinkley

(New York City) Many women who undergo hysterectomies don't really need them. Physician, who asks to remain anonymous because he fears reprisals from other doctors, says half of all hysterectomies are unnecessary. [PHYSICIAN - notes in 1 of 2 women, operation not only unnecessary, but also unwanted.] Reasons, legitimate and otherwise, for removal of uterus, noted. [PHYSICIAN - cites nonmed. reasons doctors advise such surgery.] Cancer is reason for only 20% of hysterectomies. Possible side effects of hysterectomies noted. Lois Schaffer and Trudi Hill claim to be victims of unnecessary surgery. [HILL - notes hormone therapy prescribed by doctors didn't help; says doctors told her she'd feel better after operation.] [SCHAFFER - says doctor told her reason he removed healthy ovaries was so she'd never get cancer there, notes own 1st thought then was to ask why he didn't remove other parts of body.] Authorities say large number of such operations are performed on disadvantaged and minority women, who are less likely to question procedure. Case of woman who had operation at age 16, while growing up in Virginia, noted; years later, she found it was stomach disorder she'd had. [WOMAN - is angry. Says it pays to see another doctor and to not have operation so young, and be as unhappy as she's been.] Many physicians say these charges are unfair and there are no statistics to support them. [Dr. Alvin SIEGLER - says most operations are to remove diseased organ or prevent diseased organ. Calls charges inflammatory.] There is evidence in Canada's Saskatchewan prov.; details noted. [Study chairperson Dr. Frank DYCK - says study showed large number of hysterectomies performed in prov. were unnecessary; notes that as result of study and publicity it got, number is back down to 1964 level.] Surgeon, who asks anonymity, says patient must monitor necessity for operation. [SURGEON - wants patient to be aware that no one is watching doctors and patient must activate doctor's conscience.] Patient can, at very least, see another physician in such cases.
REPORTER: Betty Rollin

Brinkley, David;
Rollin, Betty

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