Warning – somewhat of a vent ahead, again. Remember this post? I’m kinda coming back to it.
The last thing I want to do is offend my readers, but this is my blog and I should be allowed to say what I want, when I want to, right? Now, I know that my being a physician can be a bit tricky. While I strive not to provide overt medical advice, I can’t help sometimes to want to talk about medical issues from a personal perspective. Does that make any sense?
So here’s the thing – despite me using the Internet for my own selfish purpose (ie this blog), I am actually kinda hate it. I am sick watching (ie reading) strangers discussing their medical issues or their children’s medical issues and vilifying the doctors that care for them. I used to frequent a few message forums, mostly for entertainment purposes, but constantly found myself drawn to the “health/medical” posts. Most of the time, I can remember shaking my head at my computer, wondering how some people can be so daft, or shocked that someone would ask a message forum for medical advice about whether they thought their kid should see a doctor. (If you’re asking the question, the answer is probably yes!) I made the mistake on a few occasions to post a response. Big mistake! I’m not actually seen as an expert by these people. I am just a GP who can’t possibly know everything. Yet, the “research” the parent has done over the course of a few days or a few weeks, is far more inclusive than anything I’ve learned in my years of training. Gee, thanks.
I know what you’re thinking – why bother to visit these sites? My answer – because I want to know what kind of (mis)information is out there, so I’m prepared to fight it in the office. I have already made leaps and bounds in my knowledge around the “MMR causes Autism” controversy. Having read books like, “The Panic Virus” and “Autism’s False Prophets“, I am now armed for those parents who refuse the vaccination. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter to most of them, which is quite shocking to me actually. They would rather believe the stories on the Internet than sound scientific results. They would rather believe the pseudoscience than tried and tested science. They really don’t seem to care that they are putting other children at risk by not vaccinating their child. Their reliance on herd immunity is misguided, because in point of fact, herd immunity is waning.
The vaccine debate is just one of hundreds of discussion points, but it’s the one that comes up the most often in my office. I would say that about 2-3/10 parents are refusing or delaying their child’s vaccination. That frightens me! Last year, there was news of a pediatrician refusing to care for children whose parents didn’t vaccinate. I totally get it. Sure, it’s an extreme reaction on the part of the physician, but this particular physician felt that parents were not trusting in her expert opinion. How can she care for their child if there is a fundamental lack of trust?
Medicine has come a long way in the last 100 years. Science continues to advance and yes, maybe in 10-15 years, we might learn that A+B does not equal C like we thought it did. Case in point: hormone replacement therapy once touted as the savior for post-menopausal women was actually found (via the Women’s Health Initiative in 2003) to cause more harm than good. This is the nature of the scientific method. Develop a hypothesis, design a study to test it and wait for the results.
I’ve never experienced it myself, but I often wonder what it was like for the older doctors whose opinion was respected for what it was. Paternalism aside, patients and the public looked up to physicians. There isn’t much of that going on these days. Patients are showing up for appointments already having diagnosed themselves. Patients are not afraid to question their diagnoses, and in fact feel quite entitled to do so. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with discussing my findings with patients, and explaining to them my rationale behind said diagnosis. It’s the attitude that I find offensive. It’s the sense of entitlement from these patients that I have a problem with. I didn’t spend an extra 12 years in post-secondary education to be put down by someone who thinks they know better because they read about it on the Internet. It’s insulting. I wouldn’t dare tell a mechanic how to fix my car.
I’m not a perfect physician – I never claimed to be. But I would like to be respected for the years I put in to my training and for the continued self-education I engage in on a daily basis.
Is that too much to ask?