No doubt my cynicism about the government’s ambition to restrict certain health care is in part due to my own personal experiences with health care. My experience with doctors is that they all still have much to learn about their chosen field of medicine, even though most people believe that doctors know more than they actually do. With all due respect, doctors are ignorant, and our medicine isn’t that good.
Maybe it’s the best in the world, but it’s still not as good as we like to think it is, or as it might one day be. Doctors, pharmacists, and scientists are continuing to learn every day, and part of what they are learning is that what they’ve been providing to patients has included misinformation and mistreatment. In the years ahead we will look back in awe of how ignorant doctors are today.
This reminds me of the practice of “bleeding” patients, which was still a method of treatment by the “best” doctors just some 200 years ago, until someone eventually realized that this wasn’t such a good idea. The same type of thing happens every day in the field of medicine. Nutritionists continue to change dietary suggestions for intake of the five food groups and vitamins and supplements. Dentists replace cavities with silver fillings, then, a few short years later they deduce that silver fillings aren’t such a good idea after all, so they replace the fillings with much more expensive porcelain crowns. This is also a masterful marketing tool, being able to charge exorbitant fees in order to fix the same tooth twice. The third time calls for an even larger fee when they replace that tooth with an implant. The cycle never ends.
As I offer a few of my personal experiences, don’t be embarrassed to laugh. Though I may sound like I’m trying to imitate Rodney Dangerfield, I assure you that’s not my intention.
– I went to the doctor because of chronic backache. The doctor fixed my elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, which may have never caused a problem during my whole life, because that’s what doctors know how to do: fix high blood pressure and cholesterol. However, my back still hurts just as much as it always did.
– I went to the dentist because of pain in a particular tooth, number 23. After sending me through his network of dental specialists, they were all stumped. However, the dentist did fix six other teeth, although I wasn’t aware of any problems with those six teeth. On my way home, after paying my bill, which was a small fortune, tooth number 23 still hurt just like it did before I went to the dentist, and it still does.
– I went to a neurologist and told her that my hands become cold and painful whenever I use a keyboard or a mouse, due to the repetitive motion. Although I’ve suffered with this for years, it’s particularly disconcerting for a software engineer. I told the neurologist that I have to curb my use of computers, and I have to wear gloves when I do use them.
She sent me through her network of neurologists, specialists in internal medicine, vascular surgeons, plastic surgeons, hand surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, chiropractors, and occupational therapists. They performed x-rays, EMGs, blood work, Doppler sonograms, Electro-Acuscoope tests, Myopulse tests, orthopaedic tests, MRIs, and sleep studies (Yes, I considered this one to be quite a stretch myself). They tried a plethora of medications, of course, along with steroid injections, adjustment therapy, paraffin treatments, ultrasound treatments, an electro-therapy glove, and a CPAP machine.
They ruled out arthritis, lupus, an extra rib, and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Some of the doctors thought that I had mild Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CPS), others thought I had thick ligaments (apparently a bad thing), others diagnosed tendonitis or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, and still others thought I had sleep apnea (regardless of any relationship to my symptoms). The ones that asked me why I was laughing were the ones that diagnosed Repetitive Motion Syndrome (RMS) and “overuse,” because that’s what I had originally told the first neurologist, oh those many months before. The final diagnosis was Raynaud’s Syndrome, which apparently is simply the diagnosis given when none others fit, because I do not experience the episodes of one with Raynaud’s Syndrome (discoloration of fingers, etc.). What was the suggested treatment? That’s right, another good laugh–don’t use the computer so much, and wear gloves when I do.
Doctors are anything but healers. Their best success is probably in treating soar throats. They can usually make the soar throat go away after having the patient try two or three drugs, while enduring their side effects. This technique usually takes about six weeks, when the soar throat probably would have healed itself after a few days.
Doctors have also become quite skillful at artery bypass surgeries, but with little regard for how much they’re really helping those patients. Even if the bypass is helpful for a while, the constant rotation of the plethora of prescribed drugs provides enough unwanted side effects to degrade the quality of life of the patient by themselves. The patient’s quality of life is further degraded by the three trips per week to various doctors for the rest of their lives, because none of them can keep track of which drugs they’re prescribing, or balance which side effects are worse. Furthermore, what do you suppose it does for the patient’s quality of life to endure the stress of waiting by themselves in doctors offices for a total of two or three hours each week?
Doctors often base their treatment decisions on published studies. However, these studies are often flawed (“Worried Sick,” by Nortin Hadler), because of reasons such as: the results are within the margin of error; the results are intentionally biased by the researcher who is trying to prove his own hypothesis; the results are intentionally biased by drug companies who are trying to market certain drugs; or, the results are biased in some unintentional way, such as an honest mistake in the lab or in collecting and analyzing the data.
So, the opponents to health care reform then say, “What if the doctor is wrong?” In other words, they’re saying, what if a patient is denied treatment, when later it is realized that they needed that particular treatment after all. Well, that would be unfortunate, and no doubt those kinds of situations would occur. However, what if the tables were turned? What if doctors told us that certain diseases were caused by certain foods and nutrients in our diet, and then a few years later they decided that avoiding those foods and nutrients caused an even worse health problem? We read about these kinds of situations every day, as doctors continue to slowly increase their knowledge base.
Indeed, it is commonplace for doctors to hinder rather than to help. What about the doctor who performs an unnecessary test or surgical procedure, and the patient dies due to underestimating a risk factor, from a surgical error, or from a staff infection contracted in the hospital (not uncommon)? Or what about those who abort unborn babies. When was the “first do no harm” clause removed from the Hippocratic oath?
Indeed, what if the doctors are wrong? Well, I bring bad news because often times doctors are indeed wrong. Maybe restricting certain health care is a blessing in disguise, because it protects us from the poor judgment and wrong decisions by ignorant doctors.