Mar 222010

One of the great concerns expressed during island lobbying efforts to retain a car ferry on Lummi Island was that people would not be able to get medical care. In this period of national debate regarding health care reform, may I be so bold as to suggest that less medical care might be a very good thing. (Let me note immediately that I have a well-established bias that leads me to conclude that conventional or allopathic medicine is quite useless when faced with chronic illness, that is illness other than acute, life threatening infection and/or trauma. (Conventional—hospital based medicine—is also pretty good at orthopedic work and cosmetic surgery). I documented the course of my disillusion with conventional docs in a book called Diagnosis Unknown, now out of print but available used through places like or free if you are clever with The Google).

We’ve clearly reached a state of Peak Medicine anyway when 40,000,000 or so of our citizens can’t get much medical care of any kind and when huge dollar amounts are spent by the public at large on “alternative therapies.” (Presumably HCR will “cure” some of this. We’ll see).

My thesis is that most people get too much treatment, go the the doctor for every small ailment and, as a result, often get more than they bargained for in terms of misdiagnosis, over diagnosis, diagnosis unknown, mistreatment, side-effects or hospital caused illness. When JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, reports that medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in this country you’d think that someone other than me would quit going to the doctor.

The doctor-and-pill business is a huge industry that is sustained by the public’s incessant need to delegate their health to someone else. Talk to any health care provider and they will assure you that they don’t want to prescribe so many drugs…but the patients insist. Patients understand that there is something very wrong with the health system save for the fact that their own doc is “very good,” whatever that means.

But in the end, the medical/pharmaceutical industry is selling, selling, selling. Two cases in point:

1. A New York Times opinion piece of March 10, 2010 by a research professor and president of a cancer research foundation points out that American males spend 3 billion dollars a year for prostate cancer screening. The writer reports that this commonly used screening test is virtually useless and results in unnecessary biopsies, surgeries, radiation or other “damaging treatments.” Clearly, men would be better off not having the test.

2. This report follows last year’s study on the over diagnosis of breast cancer leading to, again, unnecessary treatment. The result of these studies has been to call into question the wisdom of frequent mammography.

The public has been hoodwinked into believing that early detection equals prevention. Prevention actually requires lifestyle changes that most people are unwilling to make. They prefer a better life through chemistry.

So, hypothetically, if one were stranded on an island, unable to make frequent doctor and pharmacy visits,
one could conceivably be better off.


  One Response to “Peak Medicine?”

  1. Love my new cobalt chromium hips, now I can swim off the island if I need care!!!

    We are indeed one over medicated society, I’d say a large percentage of 911 calls concern medication issues. Not too uncommon to see people on 10 + meds and not knowing what they are or what they do. Yikes!

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