The Circus is Coming to Town

Last Friday, I spent one day at two conferences about sudden cardiac arrest and death in the young.  The SADS Foundation ( hosted its Seventh Annual International Conference.  SADS is dedicated to raising awareness about and researching arrhythmias.  The Second Annual Connor Senn Symposium was a CME about causes and advances in the area of sudden death in students.  I am proud to be associated with both organizations.

Peter Mohler, MD, a researcher at Ohio State, and one of the organizers of the Connor Senn Symposium, concluded the day by making a simple observation.  We continue to debate the value of using 1800 technology (EKG) to screen kids.  “Science is letting us down,” he said.

It’s not just science, though.  It is the establishment too.  Every conference on SCA and the young that I’ve ever attended has staged this circus act.  The two conferences that I just attended did.  The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology do it every year.  The American Academy of Pediatrics just did it at its annual conference.  It goes like this . . .

In this corner, a well-published cardiologist using a few studies that compiled Google searches and insurance death records will pretend that these are really good sources, and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that EKG testing is expensive, inaccurate and unnecessary.

In the other corner, another well-published cardiologist using the Italian study from 1982 that reduced sudden death in the young by 89% and some anecdotal data collected from community screenings in the United States will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that EKG screenings are affordable and save lives.

After the circus is over, both sides go back to their practices and corners, and students continue to die from detectable and preventable conditions.

You won’t be surprised to find out where Simon’s Fund stands in this debate. Based on the data we’ve gathered from our heart screenings, and the data shared by other organizations, cardiac screenings of our youth saves lives.  They are accurate and affordable.

You may be surprised, however, to hear us say, “don’t take our word for it.” We want science to settle this debate and we know that this requires data and proof.

Here’s our proposal. We’ll raise the money. We’ll review all of the cardiology conference agendas from the last two years and invite the debaters to participate in a study. Yes, the biggest opponents and staunchest proponents side by side. Maybe we’ll make it a reality TV show too.

They will collectively decide on how many students are needed for the sample, and they’ll screen kids, together.  That’s right, Dr. No Screening will sit right beside Dr. Mandatory Screening and review the results.

There will be no retrospective analyses, Google searches or foreign studies.  We’re going to put electrodes on students in this country and see how this plays out.  We’ll do complete physicals, medical histories and EKG exams on all of the students.  We’ll do echos on some.

In the end, one hypothesis will prevail, but we can settle the debate using science and patient research.

Are you in?  It may force you to get down from your soapbox and/or cut down on your presentations.  It may force conference planners to conjure up other controversial topics.  It may even save some lives.