Could Someone Liveblog My Herniated Disc?

In “Surgery 2.0,” patients and doctors turn to complete idiots to solve complex medical problems

When Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wrote a blog post about his colonoscopy and the gas-related issues that ensued, the world held its nose and ran for cover. Dr. Clayton Dirtenhoffer, however, smelled a revolution.

“Surgery 2.0,” he explains, from his office in downtown Green Lake. “is the logical next step in our field. We can harness the power of the web to build a new medical community, one that helps patients, keeps costs down and doesn’t ‘forget’ to invite me to its professional association’s holiday party each year.”

In short, Surgery 2.0 lets anyone with a web connection participate in treating medical patients, from fevers and colds to – yes, we’ll say it – brain surgery. Rather than simply going to a doctor’s office and getting treatment from a clinician, patients can now post comments, photos or videos, create podcasts or start discussion threads.

Response to this new style of treatment – among the web set, anyway – can be summed up in two words: love… and “huh?” “It’s amazing… I feel so much better now,” says Noelle Durgin of Appleton, who sought treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome at Dr. Dirtenhoffer. “My wrists still hurt like hell, but I found this really funny episode of ‘Will It Curdle?’ on YouTube! This is treatment that understands my generation.”

Critics – and there are plenty – decry Surgery 2.0 as buzzword-heavy quackery that inexplicably substitutes hypertext for Hippocrates. Ted Buzzell, 81, found an odd lump on his neck last month, which seemed like a recurrence of the skin cancer he first saw fifteen years ago. When he went to the Surgery 2.0 clinic down the block, however, the web-based community inexplicably opted against a biopsy. “Instead,” says Buzzell, “I get a bunch of naked hippies posting photos of their ‘Bring the Troops Home Nude’ rally on my medical chart. Thanks a f___ing lot.” Others point to the now-infamous Avis Sutliff case, in which “citizen dentists” turned a routine cleaning into breast enhancement and male enhancement surgery. (Sutliff attempted to make the best of the situation with a pay-to-view “Cavities and Bazoombas” site, but was unsuccessful.)

Dirtenhoffer defenders say these critics are simply stuck in an outdated, “Surgery 1.0” way of thinking. The Great Lonnie, a Seattle-based blogger who flunked out of six med schools before becoming an enthusiastic early adopter of Surgery 2.0, asks “why does medicine have to mean helping a sick person get healthy? Why shouldn’t medicine be about building online communities? This is 2007, after all.” When asked why random internet users should have as much or more say in health decisions than trained medical practitioners or the patients themselves, Dirtenhoffer says “you’re missing the point. This is a revolution,” before hitting a button on his desk which opens a trap door under his chair and scuttles him to a hidden room elsewhere in the building.

Surgery 2.0 has plenty of people talking – even anti-HMO firebrands in Congress are asking if user-generated medicine could counterbalance Big Pharma – but there are doubts about its staying power. Says Dave Jay, who runs the web analysis blog “Dave J. on Dave Jay,” “The question people are asking is, will this revamp the world of medicine, like Dr. Dirtenhoffer and his followers predict? Or will this just turn into a glorified bulletin board for porn addicts and sci-fi nerds like the rest of the web?” Tag that question as unanswered, for now.

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