Sunday, July 28, 2013

Three Great Sins of the Medical Profession

Critics regularly denounce us for certain practices. These denunciations are more or less correct, but they miss the point.  Examples -

1. Doctors give treatments that relieve symptoms but don’t cure the underlying problem.

Right, but sometimes this is the best we can do. The cure for severe menstrual cramps is menopause, hysterectomy, or pregnancy. Drugs only relieve the pain, but patients appreciate it. No doctor cures migraine, asthma, emphysema, osteoporosis, or the flu, but we relieve a great deal of misery.

2. Doctors don’t pay much attention to diet, liquid intake, rest, and other natural treatments.

Definitely, and it’s the right thing to do.  Diet, rest, etc. help prevent disease but don’t do much 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 closed. 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.

3. Doctors spend too little time explaining how to relieve stress.

Perhaps....  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.

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