Since ancient times, doctors were regarded with much suspicion. “Cures” involved ingredients such as arsenic, mercury and lead, while therapies such as blood letting and electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) rounded out the medical toolkit. These treatments, which appeared to work at least part of the time, were backed by the science of the day.
Thanks in large part to improved sanitation and the integrity of family doctors, who avoided the use of dangerous practices from previous generations, the early 20th century saw vast improvements in patient outcomes. In those days, medical doctors (MDs) knew every member of a family living under one roof along with their patient histories. They were part of the community and cared deeply about their patients. These guys are the reason why we respect doctors today.
By the Reagan era, few doctors continued to make house calls. Medicine became an increasingly centralized affair. Riding on the coattails of family doctors of previous decades, doctors began enjoying near sacred status — a trend they are still enjoying. This has been referred to as the “golden era” of medicine, alluding to the obscene profits made by both doctors and pharmaceutical companies with little government oversight.
Today, the slogan “doctors save lives” has become so ingrained in our national psyche that we even credit doctors for keeping us alive even when the quality of life is completely eroded or the patient dies! As a result, MDs are the only ones allowed to actually “treat” or “cure” you. Anyone else using those terms will find themselves slapped with fines, perhaps jail time, losing a license or, if they’re lucky, being accused of quackery.
The truth, however, is that the US does NOT have the best health in the world. In fact, we fall dead last in many categories for patient outcomes. This is to be expected when decisions, which used to be made between physician and patient, are now made by government bodies run by non-practicing physicians and former pharmaceutical executives as well as insurance companies.
As a result, every year millions of disappointed patients return from doctor’s visits in no better shape than when they went in. The average doctor visit lasts between 10 and 18 minutes, hardly leaving enough time to make a proper diagnosis let alone devise a decent treatment game plan.
As a former Pharmacia turned Pfizer rep, whose job it was to interview doctors (roughly 200 per month), it rapidly became clear that most doctors were concerned with little more than cycling as many patients through the door as possible. With malpractice insurance premiums often approaching 7 figures, the cost of keeping the lights on and their staff employed, health insurance companies that don’t pay, possible side gigs such as teaching and their own families to participate in, it’s totally understandable how so many get caught up in such a broken system.
An unfortunate side effect is that the script pad has become a doctor’s best friend. They don’t have time to look at that new supplement you found at the health food store. Maybe they never even heard of the disease you have.
The claim is usually that “there is no scientific evidence,” which I interpret to mean, “The pharma rep who came into my office didn’t tell me that.” It’s true. Many a doctor has told me over the past three decades that without training provided by pharmaceutical companies, they would not know how to treat most conditions.
It is preposterous to claim lack of scientific evidence — it’s out there, for anyone willing to look — when we stop to realize that our understanding of science is constantly changing. We’ve already seen that mercury and arsenic were much employed therapies backed by the “good science” of their day.
More than once in the 20th century, we learned that we thought was safe is now recognized for irreparable damage done to unsuspecting humans. I’m looking at you, thalidomide and DDT!
Likewise, what science once told us was bad, is suddenly good — really good. Remember back in the mid-80s, when they told us to avoid egg yolks and butter, only to find them back on the menu in the late 90s?
So what do you do when your doctor can’t be bothered with your symptoms that don’t respond to his anything in his arsenal of toxic medications? When he tells you it’s “all in your head” because he never heard of it? Or when you decide that you’ve had enough mystery concoctions and would prefer to get to the bottom of your health problem instead of getting on his continuity program of never-ending expensive prescriptions that will require more budget-busting prescriptions to fix the side effects?
- Do you shrug your shoulders and suffer in silence?
- Do you allow your body to become overwhelmed by disease until you die?
- Do you submit to the experiment and hope for the best?
- Or do you seek out options — any options — until you get the relief you seek?
We’re all different. So while some people may chose one of the first three options, many of us recognize good health as our birthright. I fall into this last group.
I believe that our bodies come bundled with a little (major!) principle called homeostasis, essentially meaning that the body always seeks balance. Our bodies’ first priority is to keep the host alive. In a world where health mandates come from remote third parties, the tricky part has become knowing which ingredients will allow it to do its job.
Yet patients like me increasingly find themselves ostracized and vilified for seeking the services of a physician or other health professional who offers two-hour consultations to fully understand their health history. They are belittled for wanting to avoid expensive drugs with side effects that keep them up at night, give them heart palpitations, keep them constantly on edge or could kill them. They are shamed for seeking the services of a “quack” or “charlatan”.
It is a curious to observe that no matter how many lives they actually save or how much better their patients fare in general, licensed health professionals working outside the government-endorsed system of pharmaceutical and surgical treatment are considered “dangerous”. These professionals are accused of spreading misinformation and lies.
Let that sink in. The professionals who help are considered dangerous. The ones who lose patients to preventable illness are heroes.
Essentially, this is like the bully at school who told the teacher you bullied her to deflect from her own actions. So while you got called into the office for a good talking to and serving detention, the bully was off beating up other kids and stealing their lunch money.
Put another way, it is the abusive spouse who calls his wife a whore, when he finds her in the arms of someone who will romance her the way she deserves.
Shoot! I could do this all day!
At the risk of sounding like an advocate for piracy, pirates (as in “of the Caribbean”) were vilified not only for stealing treasure that was legally stolen by different European powers, it was also because pirate ships had a democratic form of governance that even allowed Blacks to have a voice during an era where all of Europe saw black people as nothing more than beasts of burden. They were subversive to the institution of slavery.
So yes, doctors and other licensed professionals who can help with something other than medication are considered subversive to those who want to take all the spoils for themselves.
Who’s to blame?
The lack of lasting, non-invasive, non-life-threatening solutions in their medical bag-turned-drug cabinet opens the floodgates for both good and bad actors to get a foothold in the marketplace. Add to that the inability to intelligently discuss options with their patients (or at least show an interest) is effectively what drives those patients into the offices of those willing to spend the time with them, show compassion and help them understand their bodies better.
You cannot blame educated people for seeking solutions to their problems.
Science is not static. To accept only one type of practitioner as the source of all the answers does not follow a scientific method.
Science must remain dynamic in order to advance. However, modern western science has become dogmatic and stagnant with its ever-growing laundry list of required drugs and inoculations that don’t do bupkis to improve your quality of life. Modern science has become a one-hit wonder by putting all its hopes in the pharmaceutical basket, always pointing back to the polio vaccine as its greatest achievement. The fact that this isn’t the great success we once believed is another article for another day.
Good MDs recognize over-medicalization as a fundamental problem. Thankfully, they are once again growing in number. These guys notice that when they use textbook logic, their patients get worse. For example, insulin is a typical “treatment” for diabetes, however, it is far from a solution. The word ‘treatment’ implies that the patient gets better. While insulin may artificially alter blood sugar levels in patients, it does nothing to correct the actual problem of high levels of sugar circulating in the blood. In other words, when was the last time you heard of someone coming off of insulin or even lowering the amount required?
Instead, the first thing a diabetic prescribed insulin usually notices a 20 lb weight increase. Overweight is already considered a risk factor for diabetes, so this is a situation that is going from bad to worse. Then as the cells become more resistant to taking in sugar, blood sugar rises. Higher and higher doses of insulin are required to increase circulating sugar uptake by the cells and weight continues to increase. This goes on and on until the patient eventually ends up on dialysis and then dies — all the while prescribing other medications to offset side effects caused by insulin and a weakening immune system.
In marketing, this is called a continuity program. It is also part of a marketing funnel, where patients are brought in on the low end and each treatment requires new or higher ticket products (such as weight loss pills, surgery and dialysis) to meet the end goal…. for the marketer.
On the other hand, the patient could choose to go on any number of low carb diets to balance their blood sugar. This allows them to lose weight, kick insulin to the curb and get control of their life.
Good doctors want to know, when patients do something unconventional that has a beneficial outcome. They take notes, do research and begin safe “experiments” usually starting with themselves or family members. As they go along, they course correct to develop individualized protocols for their patients.
After a few successes, these subversives begin to ask themselves what else is possible, when they break from textbook protocols. Over the past 25 years, I’ve seen many MDs go back to school to earn degrees in many complementary disciplines so that they may better serve their patients.
To my mind, these are the heroes — the types of doctors we need more of.
The bottom line is this. The medical industry has been eroding the public’s trust for decades now. Thinking people want it to deliver on its promises. So if it wants people to stop seeing so-called quacks and charlatans, they will employ more transparency; stop using fear tactics; treat patients with dignity; embrace patients as active participants in their healthcare; and stop treating patients like they are idiots.
6 thoughts on “The hard sell of modern medicine”
I think this is a very good article because it’s the truth. We need more of this. People should research other options. Seeing how certain diseases are increasing even though there are all kinds of medicines out there should alert us that something isn’t working.
Thanks for your input, Maria! The US has more medicines available than anywhere else on the planet yet we have the most abysmal health. Any country following our footsteps is finding the same pathetic results, but governments are selling out and the population is simply too sick to see they are getting worse, not better.
Bravo -That was well said!!
Thanks so much for the feedback!
Going to nutrition school helped me to realize how important it was over medicine or that it must be in combination with nutrition. So I use nutrition first before calling a MD. Most of the time taking good supplements and eating healthy is enough to not even need to call a MD.
Congrats on your degree and learning how to take care of your body! It’s a lost art that our ancestors did not take for granted. Only in the modern era do we think our health should be managed by someone other than ourselves.
As the daughter of a Registered Nurse, I was constantly at the hospital (doctor was located there) for every little thing. My mom was only doing what she was taught to do, but boy, did I pay the price! After I got my degree in nutrition, she told me how the doctors she worked with in the 60s and 70s would ask her and the other nurses about nutrition since they had no training. In those days, doctors were not pressured to feel they had to know everything about everything.
And yes, nutrition and even rest are so grossly overlooked these days. Before I even knew anything about nutrition, I knew that if I felt a cold or flu coming on that a bowl of my chicken soup that I wrote about in the cookbook with an hour of rest would kick the fever, chills, cough, runny nose, lost sense of smell/taste etc out of my body by the time I woke up.