When to Say No to Your Doctor

The headline above is from an article in the October 2014 issue of Men’s Journal. The article, written by Joseph Hooper, starts with an ominous warning, “Every time you walk into a physician’s office, you run the risk of overtreatment: Tests you don’t need, medications that are ineffective (or dangerous), procedures that cause more problems than they solve. In many cases the best thing for your health is to do nothing.”

Hooper reports that in the US we spend nearly twice as much per person on healthcare as do people in other western European countries, yet our life expectancy is actually several years shorter. He goes on toreport that the U.S. National Institute of Medicine says that we “…waste $210 billion annually on treatments of no or marginal benefit.”

Further strengthening his argument, Hooper continues, “In a study last year, researchers from the Mayo Clinic went through 10 years of the New England Journal of Medicine, from 2001 through 2010. Of the established tests and procedures reevaluated in studies in the journal, 40 percent were found to be worthless.”

The problem pointed out in the article is that procedures and tests are being done to find things that are marginally abnormal which initiates treatments and medications that are both dangerous and ineffective. Dr. Gilbert Welch, a professor at Dartmouth’s Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, points out, “As doctors, we have focused on the few we might be able to help. The time has come for us to give equal attention to the many who are dragged through the process unnecessarily.”

The article recommends several books including one by Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, titled How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America. Dr. Brawley is quoted as saying, “In the U.S., we don’t stress preventing disease. We stress finding disease early and treating it, which is a shame.”

In response to this article, Dr. Michael McLean, president of the International Chiropractors Association and practicing chiropractor in Virginia Beach, Va., commented, “One of the problems with the healthcare system in the U.S. is that it has primarily been a one-option system.” McLean continued, “Many people are not even aware that there is a choice in types of care. Chiropractic has always offered an affordable and safe alternative to the much more expensive and hazardous allopathic model. Chiropractic is not only for people with symptoms, but is even more beneficial as a lifestyle choice that leads to being healthy. This should be preferable over merely treating illness after it has been detected.”

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