Thursday, March 14, 2013

Three More Great Sins

4.  Doctors spend too little time explaining how to relieve stress.
     Probably… Stress makes everything worse but doesn’t cause anything. Seeing a doctor for stress results from what I call the “medicalization of society” - the notion that life’s difficulties (a hateful job, unsatisfying sex life, shyness) represent a medical problem. There’s no harm in this; a good doctor can listen sympathetically and make sensible suggestions which require no medical training.

5.  Doctors don’t pay much attention to diet, rest, exercise, and other natural methods of treating illnesses.
     True and proper. Diet, rest, etc. play an essential part in preventing disease but drop to supporting roles once you get sick... A perfect example were tuberculosis sanitariums, the oldest government supported medical program. They began appearing in the nineteenth century. Patients received nutritious food and plenty of rest in a healthy, rural environment.  They were discharged (sometime after years) when their TB became inactive. No one was cured, and many relapsed. When drugs appeared after 1945 sanitariums vanished. Nowadays doctors encourage TB patients to eat a nutritious diet, but they’ll get better even if they don’t – provided they take their drugs.

6.  Doctors ignore alternative and folk medical practices.
     I notice enthusiasts treat folk medicine with respect, but no one advocates folk dentistry...
In fact, many alternative practices work but less dramatically than advocates claim.  Acupuncture definitely relieves pain. Unfortunately, its action is unpredictable and not always complete. Despite vivid reports, Chinese surgeons rarely use it in place of anesthesia... Chiropractic manipulation relieves some backaches for a limited time.

The better doctors handle a problem, the less you’ll read about “alternative” treatments. Your local health food store doesn’t sell an herbal remedy for appendicitis. Don’t laugh. Appendicitis is fatal; until a century ago victims died after weeks of agony. Then we discovered that snipping off the appendix (something any bright high school student can do) cured it. Today no one worries about dying of appendicitis. 

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