“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
– Winston Churchill
Criticizing Modern Medicine
Critics of modern medicine’s critics are “fed up with the cranks.”
According to the wackos, modern medical care kills and injures more people than, well, just about anything. Joe Mercola and Gary Null have very long articles on their websites bemoaning the dangers of medicine versus the safety of woo. They love to make statements like, “It is now evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the US.” – Denialism Blog
Certainly there is a level of shrill that serves to discredit a detractor especially when the claims are broad sweeping statements which cannot be substantiated.
And the critics frustration with medicine’s “lack of vision” can often escalate into accusations of depraved indifference.
But Bill Maher makes it sound like doctors are stalking healthy people in the streets and beating them to death with ball-peen hammers. – Denialism Blog
There are, however, many credible individuals calling for change. For an intro to this world, Dr. William Davis is as good a place to start as any.
Even those on the inside occasionally break the silence and admit that they are just trying to make it through the day like everyone else.
“Do doctors care?” he writes in one of the journal entries he quotes throughout the memoir. “I don’t know. I don’t see a lot of caring”. (…)
From his current perspective as a practicing cardiologist, Jauhar admits, “In some ways, I probably ended up becoming the kind of doctor I never thought I’d be: impatient with alternative hypotheses, … sometimes indifferent (hard-edged, emotionless), occasionally paternalistic.” – Imperfect Heroes, New York Times
Certainly there is a conservative bias amongst the profession to go with what you know and have been taught. Tried and tested almost always trumps new ideas – even when mountains of evidence suggest it is time for a revision. In fairness, it’s hard not to get shrill when it seems some doctors would rather protect their beliefs than your health.
But when he next visited (…) the specialist was astonished to see that the leg had healed. “He asked me, ‘Where’s the ulcer?'” The former army nurse explained that his diabetes was now being managed on a special low-carbohydrate diet, recommended by his GP. “The specialist told me, Oh, we don’t believe in that.” – The Weight of the Evidence
Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that those in the medical profession don’t always make the best scientists. For the long examination of that, read Good Calories, Bad Calories.
For a quick example, check out: Medicine and Statistics Don’t Mix
Bottom line? Medicine affects us all. We’re all entitled to a say because, eventually, we will all be patients or we will be recipients of the edicts issued by the profession. And to remain obediently passive when in doubt is akin to participating in a Milgram experiment in which we both administer and receive the shocks.
Of course, the tenor and content of a criticism will determine whether you are heard or whether your opinions are tossed aside with the rest of “the cranks.”
No doubt those holding tight to their world view will always resort to attacking the messenger instead of the message. The key to success is in perseverance over the long run: keep smiling, keep hurling science back and keep the anecdotes coming. Eventually people listen.
Or, you know, die-off.
“An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: What does happen is that the opponents gradually die out.”
– Max Planck