Very captivating article in the New York Times this morning regarding the faith we have (or don’t have) in our doctors and the unsure world of alternative therapy, which is rife with quacks, profit-takers and drugs that simply don’t work.
The world of medicine and healthcare seems to get more and more baffling as time goes on. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been able to connect with any doctor I’ve ever had. In fact, it would be great if I could even see him or speak to him. In fact, my last physical was performed by his nurse practitioner. The only time I’ve spoken to him in the last year, he was bumbling and mumbling about a question I asked him and five minutes later when I hung up I realized I was no closer to my question than when we started.
Who can we trust to tell us we’re ok or not ok? Last year, you may remember I had a friend, age 35, who abruptly died of a heart attack. He’d gone to the ER a week before and they sent him home, diagnosing acid reflux. Only in post-mortem did they discover that his heart disease had been festering since his early 20s. Why does it take an autopsy table to diagnose that? (I know the answer….it’s just inexcusable).
The fact that so many people are heading towards alternative therapies – an even more mysterious and worse – unregulated – field just speaks volumes about the lack of trust in our medical system. Virtually no alternative medicines or treatments have been proven to work, yet according to the Times, 48% of Americans have tried them, which may speak more about the mental aspects of being physically ill (if you believe you’ll get better….).
Let’s not even start to weave in the complexities of what drives the insurance business or the drug companies, either. Do we trust ourselves more than our doctors now? Do doctors even trust insurers and drug companies? Shit, I do my best to avoid taking ANY medicine these days unless I absolutely have to. Over-the-counter cough medicine seems to make me worse for a couple of days before I start feeling better. About the only thing I take is Advil and on average I take two pills per couple of months. I don’t know who to trust or what to believe.
I’ll leave it at this, though: The Times points out a woman who had a bad experience with a Hodgkins diagnosis five years back. When it recurred, she balked at the standard treatment and said:
“I had absolutely no scientific reason for choosing this route, none,” she said. “I just think there are times in our life when we are asked to make decisions based on our intuition, on our gut instinct, not based on evidence put in front of us, and for me this was one of those moments.”
Think about that quote as if you had said it and your life were on the line. Really says a lot.
By the way, her alternative treatment didn’t work.