Monthly Letters to Pulmonary Patients by Thomas L. Petty

Thomas L. Petty, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, 
University of Colorado

Snowdrift Pulmonary Conference


The Snowdrift

899 Logan Street, Suite 203 
Denver, CO 80203-3154
303 996-0868
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303 996-0870

The Conference is a function of  The Snowdrift Pulmonary Foundation, Inc. A Not-for-Profit Corporation

Oxymorons and Other Species

February 2004

Second Wind
Lomita, California

Dear Friends;

     The dictionary says that an oxymoron is an "accumulation of contradictory and incongruous terms". Examples might be "a mournful optimist" or "academic tranquility."

     Now I have a different species in mind. This is a person(s) who is a moron about oxygen. This can be a patient, an oxygen supplier, and a health care provider or third party payor. But you can find oxygen morons any place you look for them. 

Oxygen morons often believe that (I have only listed 10):

  • Long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) is useful only in advanced stages of respiratory diseases such as COPD. 

  • LTOT can be toxic to the lungs.

  • Oxygen is oxygen, no matter how it is supplied. Thus tanks, concentrators and liquid portable systems are all equal. 

  • Too many patients receive LTOT. Many don't need it and it could be stopped, even in chronic stable patients. 

  • Suppliers can deliver any type of oxygen system no matter what is prescribed by the physician. 

  • Medicare will not pay for liquid portable oxygen. 

  • There is no advantage to ambulatory oxygen other than it is convenient. 

  • Enough research about how and why oxygen works has already been done. 

  • Oxygen is dangerous and may explode or start fires.

  • Scientists actually know the mechanisms by which oxygen works in COPD and related disorders. 

     The facts are that lots need to be learned about oxygen and how it works. We need to encourage the development of new oxygen technologies. We need to find out why ambulatory oxygen is superior to oxygen delivered by stationary systems and why ambulatory oxygen improves survival and restores energy production in tissues. We have a long way to go to make the progress that is possible, through new research and development of LTOT. In the meantime, remember that Medicare WILL pay for liquid portable oxygen. A supplier cannot change a doctor's prescription. Stick to your guns and fight the oxy-morons.

I'll be in touch next month.

Your friend,

  Thomas Petty, MD

Last update:
22 February 2004