Doctors are among the most admired and appreciated people in our society. They heal, repair, care for the sick, conduct research to prevent illness and provide health education. Most people have good experiences with their doctors and hospitals. Yet there are some problems with this one-sided relationship that would be worth exploring before we lionize medical professionals too much more: Doctors can be neither god nor judge when it comes to deciding who lives or dies– they’re human beings like everyone else after all; they make mistakes; they may even harm patients when their judgment is impaired by drugs or fatigue; they earn far more than teachers, social workers, librarians and many other professions that serve society with comparable skill and intelligence.
Oregon health licensing is completely inadequate; it does not require any education or testing in communication skills, clinical reasoning, ethics, diagnostic reasoning and evidence-based medicine. By maintaining this substandard system Oregon risks the dangers of medical errors, misdiagnosis and drug-induced harm to the public. Doctors deserve respect and admiration, but they also deserve accountability. Most patients report having a positive experience with their doctor but it’s also true that most people don’t know what doctors don’t know about health. People will continue to trust their medical experts unless they are educated about how little doctors know about nutrition, lifestyle design and how to prevent disease.
1. We Like Them Because They Are Experts.
When we read the many studies and articles about heart disease, cancer and death rates of Americans, we feel secure knowing that our medical experts have a handle on the health crisis in this country. We assume that if they know so much more than we do, they must have saved us from the ravages of disease; they must be the reason why death rates are declining. The media constantly reinforces this perception by trumpeting new advances in medicine and new drugs to treat diseases—the idea is reinforced that doctors are doing everything needed to help us all live longer healthier lives.
In reality, the data that is used to make these conclusions is often faulty and misinterpreted. Many of the studies are industry-funded; many are epidemiological in nature and can only identify statistically significant relationships between different variables. These studies don’t have a good way to determine causality. So we suffer from confirmation bias in interpreting these types of data: We see what we want to see.
2. We Love Them Because They Help Us Live Longer.
The overall life expectancy of Americans has increased dramatically in recent decades and most people believe that doctors deserve the credit for this accomplishment. We think that doctors give us certain drugs and treatments that make us healthier, that prevent illness in the first place. Beliefs like this gained widespread acceptance in the 1800s when physicians really did save people from death with new drugs, medications and surgery. But medicine has moved on to new (and often worse) methods of intervention that claim to save lives:
Surgeons perform hundreds of thousands of operations each year in the US and make billion-dollar profits. The complications and side effects from surgery are not reported accurately—or at all– nor are the long-term effects on health such as cancer, autoimmune diseases and chronic pain.
The cancer industry is worth an estimated $100 billion a year in the US and growing. This huge industry employs thousands of doctors and scientists who would lose their jobs if natural cancer treatments became more mainstream. The downside of chemotherapy is that it damages healthy cells, and worse, can actually promote cancer growth when used as a preventative measure or for slow-growing cancers that don’t pose an immediate threat to life.
Thousands of children are damaged each year from this practice. Most pediatricians don’t admit that vaccinations can cause autism and other neurologic disorders, but we do know how to reduce the risk of vaccine injury—the number one defense against childhood illness is a healthy immune system, not vaccines.
3. We Love Them Because They Are Heroic.
One of the reasons why people love doctors is because they provide a sense of safety and comfort in times of illness or trauma. People feel good when they are taken care of by a competent professional—it’s comforting to have someone in charge, to have an expert there to guide you through the crisis.
We have been so programmed to expect doctors to save us that we don’t often ask if they really can help us at all. In reality, sick people are more likely to die from a trip to the doctor than anything else—they develop complications from procedures like surgery and medical mistakes like misdiagnosis or wrong prescriptions.