Charlatans piss me off

I posted the following comment over on Bad Astronomy and I thought I might as well post it here as it’s a personal story relevant to recent blog discussions of medical treatments.

I felt the same when I had a laparoscopic appendectomy rather than having them slice me open, reducing my recovery time by weeks. And afterward, when I developed an infection, IV antibiotics saved my life.

The best part? This was completely routine.

The fact that I had an inflamed appendix was business as usual to the surgeons. The fact that I later developed an infection was a non-worrisome complication because we have antibiotics that are well-capable of fighting it off.

But to think about the alternative: If I had developed an infection and we didn’t have antibiotics, I would have died. If I had burst my appendix because we had no tools to discover the problem and no tools to fix it, I would have died. I would have died of something that, today, is considered a little over a minor inconvenience. And ignorant people taken in by these charlatans can very well die of the same thing if they are convinced that this or that tincture can cure their appendicitis instead. Vultures.

What a lot of people fail to realize about science and medicine is that often doctors, nurses, and therapists are trying to do the least amount of invasive diagnostics and treatment to find out what’s wrong with you and help. Also, we are trying to rule out likely causes before jumping to exotic things that 0.1% of people ever get but, after a few hours with Google, are staunchly convinced they have.

Enter conflict. People may come from an interaction with their health care practitioner thinking “(s)he didn’t listen to me, (s)he was dismissive of my concerns”. While some practitioners may be less personable than others and may interact with their patients/clients in a way that is off-putting, I think what we have to remember is that we are trying to use our knowledge to help people. Health care workers are not all-knowing gods — yet we expect them to be (in knowledge), but get pissed off when they act like they are (in attitude). It is frustrating when people come to us for help with non-peer-reviewed Google “research” being equally off-putting in their assumption that one hour with Google supersedes 10-15 years (or more) of specialized education.

Potential patients also have to suffer the onslaught of charlatans and quacks peddling their wares and they don’t have the specialized knowledge to know what to throw out and what to keep (see my upcoming post about this topic next week). They get told that drugs are bad – mmmkay – and that so-called “Western medicine” is a big drug conspiracy.

Yes, big conspiracy to spend thousands of dollars on tuition to get a job where we help people for a living only to screw them over for fun later. Um, no. Titles don’t matter. Evidence does.

Our job is to help and we have the knowledge and training to do that. Any responsible health care practitioner should listen to their patients/clients, because they are the best person to describe what is wrong with them and how they are feeling. But patients/clients also have a responsibility to their own health and part of that is 1) evidence-based knowledge, 2) finding a family doctor that is right for you, and 3) not making the assumption that this is a parent/child-like relationship — it’s not, it’s a partnership.

I wouldn’t hire a plumber to fix my windows and I wouldn’t hire a carpenter to fix my toilet. So the mind boggles that people go to a psychic for health advice over a doctor or go to an acupuncturist over a physical or occupational therapist for rehabilitation. This is largely due, I think, to lack of critical thinking and a preponderance of wishful thinking amidst an onslaught of false and/or confusing information. Health care practitioners have to get the word out about what we do and why we do it. And more than just a definition of what we are. We have to make clear what we intend our relationship to be with our patients/clients so they aren’t sitting there smiling and nodding to us, and then later walking out of our office straight into the arms of someone with no evidence who will charge a large sum of money to “help” them instead.

To my potential patients/clients
I’m not out to get you. I want to help. When I give you exercises or activities to do for rehabilitation, it’s for a reason – to help you get better, not to blindly make something up in an effort to exert power over you. You have the responsibility of making yourself better as much as I have in helping you because I can’t be there in your home to make you take your medication or do your exercises. If you don’t participate, your recovery will not be as positive as it would have been otherwise. It’s that simple.

This is a partnership. Let me help you. Accept that the reason I know more about medicine and therapy is because I spent years studying that particular topic, not because I’m smarter or better than you and not because I don’t respect your opinion. If someone is touting a bunch of easy answers for money, it’s likely that is too good to be true and you’ll be exactly where you were in the first place, now short whatever you paid. I may not have easy answers, but I have effective evidence-based ones.

Finally, a word of warning/advice. There is no reason big enough for anyone to be stuck with a health care team that is legitimately giving you the wiggins. If it feels off, get out. Some people are not good at their job. Following blindly is as bad as blind argumentation. Think. Participate. Be responsible for your own health. We’re just here to help.


3 responses to “Charlatans piss me off

  1. I had a conversation recently with a rather credulous friend who decided to reason me out of my very reasonable belief in modern medicine. His most compelling argument? That sometimes doctors just seem mean, and can’t always figure out what the problem is. I honestly had to spend a good amount of time explaining that doctors are just people, and that diagnosing is sometimes difficult, and that not everyone has people skills. It seems to me that the biggest reason people go to “the other side” (a.k.a. alternative medicine) is because they don’t feel like they’re being coddled enough by their doctor. Alternative docs coddle their patients because they depend on it for their business – maybe it all just comes down to ego, people just really want to be told what they want to hear.

  2. Sorry, I meant to say it seems to come down more to ego than it comes down to health.

  3. Right as usual Kimbo.

    I had a doctor years ago who was so dismissive and rude that it turned me off from doctors in general for years. And then one day I realized how stupid it was to turn my back on all doctors and their potentially useful and helpful ideas because of one jackass. I am glad I didn’t hold out… I am much healthier now.