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Thread: Thoughts on our Medical System

  1. #1
    Veteran Member Katee's Avatar
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    30th September 2007
    Big Bear, CA (tiny town in the mountains)

    Default Thoughts on our Medical System

    This is an opinion piece, but some of the sources upon which i base this opinion are listed (and i worked for doctors and hospitals for more than 10 years)

    Fact: I watch a lot of TV. This isn’t entirely voluntary.

    Of course it is, but i have extreme Chronic Fatigue / myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and i have limited options in how to pass my day. I read a lot, and spend time on the computer, but i also watch a lot of TV while i knit.

    Fortunately, TV technology these days means that i don’t have to watch all the commercials, but even with technology in place to by-pass most commercials, with the amount of TV i watch, i still catch a lot of them. One that i saw today was for a new product from Bausch + Lomb – eye drops for redness called LUMIFY. The commercial goes on and on about how they make your eyes look “whiter and brighter.” But it seems to me this one commercial underlines one of the big problems with our current medical system: No one is asking why people are having red eyes, no one is asking the cause of it. No one is looking for a way to address and prevent red eyes; they simply want to remove the symptom. Is it lack of sleep, too much caffeine, an allergy, or an inflammatory reaction to an environmental element?

    The fact of the matter is our current medical system is set up to address symptoms the majority of the time, but they are not very good at addressing causes (food allergies or intolerances, environmental influences such as “air fresheners,” laundry scents, electromagnetic influences, pesticides, and so much more). If people were to learn the cause of their issue and avoid that cause in the future, most of the (toxic) medications being prescribed could be avoided.

    If medications were safe and non-toxic, perhaps this wouldn't be so much of a problem, but unfortunately this is not so. Even so-called "bio-identical" prescriptions or "virtually identical synthetic" medicines each have long, long lists of side effects. The number of reported deaths every year from properly prescribed medication is high (
    “About 128,000 people die from drugs prescribed to them” New Prescription Drugs: A Major Health Risk With Few Offsetting Advantages June 27, 2014), and there is a lot of discussion about how this is probably a very low percentage of the true number.

    In the early 90s while i was in college, i was working for a doctor. I had at that time years of chronic bronchitis and often used guaifenesin to treat it. The Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) of 1991 or 1992 actually said, “There are no known side effects to guaifenesin.” I’d never seen anything like it (as in those days i spent a lot of time learning about meds and reading the PDR). But that is no longer true. There are a number of side effects listed to guaifenesin in the literature now.

    Part of my point is that by using guaifenesin i was treating the symptoms (the chronic bronchitis / cough) when we were never treating the cause (which turned out to be a Helicobacter pylori, H. pylori, infection that prescription antibiotic did not address; H. pylori generally is found in the digestive system, in my case it lodged in lung tissue). When, eventually, i was able to treat the cause, the symptoms disappeared.

    I could name numerous different illnesses that are not generally recognized as a reaction to foods or other allergies but many people report improvement (sometimes outright reversing the illness) when they change their diet and other causes of inflammation.

    I absolutely agree that we need to change our healthcare system and that no one should lose their homes or go bankrupt because of medical care. But what we are trying to put into place does not address the underlying problems with our system. Our current system is a for-profit arrangement that carries conflict of interest inherent in the structure. All the plans for care i’ve seen work to maintain the basics of the current system. I do not deny that people doing the work need to be paid, but we need to look at this structure and who is making the money to address the problems.

    Part of this begins with the very history of our medical care. The American Medical Association (AMA) was created in 1847. Part of their motivation was altruistic, seeking to standardize medical training and acceptable practices. Some of their motivation was not so charitable, however, in that they actively sought to limit medical training and competition and designed to make it difficult to achieve acceptance into medical school. This was rather an elitist move, and it also raised the question of who set the standards they uphold? I do not deny that many of the practices they sought to close down were probably snake-oil types of care that took advantage of patients, but they also chose to fight practices that could benefit patients (chiropractic and other alternative medical options).

    The AMA carries a lot of power these days. It is one of the strongest lobbies in our government. It is influenced by pharmaceutical and other corporate entities, and virtually runs the FDA and other gov’t alphabetical regulatory agencies. Currently, natural treatments are not well accepted in conventional medicine. Largely this is because there is not enough money to be made to justify the scientific exploration of the benefits of natural medicine with food, herbs, and supplements. The AMA, FDA, and other agencies actively work to limit the use of natural substances (such as tart cherry to address inflammation). Medical professionals frequently speak of natural or alternative treatments with food, herbs, or supplements with contempt. They often say, “That doesn’t work,” whereas the fact of the matter is we often don’t know if they work because they have not been studied.

    This is a very big discussion, probably far outside my ability to address all at once, but i do want to address two other related issues.

    One is that the monopoly that our medical system has created is very strong and as long as it is in place we will not be able to change the system in a way that will truly benefit patients.

    Back when i was working for that doctor in the early 90s, one thing that changed was being able to market drugs directly to the consumers. The US is only one of four countries in the world that allow this. I was actually quite excited by this turn because i believed it would empower the patient / consumer to be a partner with the prescribing doctor rather than just a passive subordinate.

    I wish, oh how i wish i could say this was true. Instead it has made pharmaceutical companies more powerful. It has “normalized” medicine making it seem common or natural to be taking meds every day and to run to the doctor for every little symptom. It works to make people fearful of illness and much more likely to trust the doctor to determine a course of treatment. And, inexplicably to me, people don’t seem to be concerned about the long lists of possible side effects at the end of these commercials. If you should question certain recommendations, someone around you is likely to sarcastically say, “And where did you go to medical school?” implying that no one who has not attended medical school has the ability to make informed decisions. Doctors are pressed to see more patients in less time and rarely have the opportunity to really partner with the people seeking their advice.

    Our current system of handling chronic illness (treatment of trauma is different, that is a better system) is not beneficial to the people suffering and the medical establishment does not want this to change.

    The second thing i think very important for most people to realize: Our system is greatly flawed.

    By this i mean the “scientific” studies upon which drugs and vaccines are released to the public. Supposedly drugs go through “gold standard” double-blind trials. When i was working hospital early on, i was shocked to the core in observing one of these tests. They sounded so clean and scientific when i was taking experimental design and statistics classes in college. What i observed left room for the data to be manipulated at every step. These tests are not as well designed and implemented as we have been led to believe, and it is estimated that less than 10% of post-marketing problems are reported.

    What is a greater insult, if you return to the prescribing physician with a side effect of a prescribed med, even if it is significant and listed in the PDR literature, most docs will dismiss it as a “coincidence,” and may not even list it in your records. The fact of the matter is very few docs understand the meds they prescribe, and if you do not research it yourself and advocate for yourself, there really is no one working to try to help you be healthy.

    Doctors treat us as interchangeable Legos. We do not all react the same to things. The majority of people appear to handle vaccinations without long-term repercussions, although if you are not looking for something you will not find it. But without a doubt, some people have problems. Some people have different genetic reactions to things they are exposed to, but even people with the same genetic structure may respond differently to the same ingredient. This is why the drug tests that are being done are inadequate. For the same reason, some people may have positive results from food, herbs, or supplements, and others apparently have no change.

    One last little thing that goes hand in hand with this: Few doctors know what true “aging” looks like. For the last 40-50 years, we have been “medically managed” from the moment of birth throughout our entire lives. From the vaccines given at birth and on, to the overuse of antibiotics, we have changed our body’s environment. If we kill all the beneficial bacteria in a digestive system when we are infants, is it any wonder that we have become a nation of people with chronic illness? And, back to my original point, instead of seeking causes to address, we simply seek to address symptoms with more and more medications.

    Thank you for your patience and listening to my rant.

  2. #2
    Administrator Islander's Avatar
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    16th September 2007
    Maine, USA. The way life should be.

    Default Re: Thoughts on our Medical System

    Excellent essay, Katee. I think you'll find 100% support from our members. Some of the topics you raise have been discussed in our Medical Ethics forum. And of course that famous quote from Marcia Angell comes to mind: “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.”
    Marcia Angell, MD, “Drug Companies and Doctors: A story of Corruption.” NY Review of Books, Jan. 15, 2009.

    I like to think I'll live long enough to see universal health care come to the U.S., as it has to every other developed country in the world. But I'm not sanguine about that possibility. Not at all.
    ➤ Happiness is the frosting on the cake of contentment.

  3. #3
    Veteran Member
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    14th July 2010

    Default Re: Thoughts on our Medical System

    Katee! How lovely to hear from you after what seems like a long time.

  4. #4
    Veteran Member Maurya's Avatar
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    29th August 2009
    Saint Croix

    Default Re: Thoughts on our Medical System

    Thank you Katee!

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