Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What happened to 'do no harm'?

This book sounds like it will give a pretty scary overview of medical treatment in the US. I will have to add it to the stack of intellectual books I am attempting to read 'The Emperor of All Maladies' and 'The Omnivores Dilemma' and others. But I really will read them all some day. 

Anyway back to the book, How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America. The title says it all. One example in the article talks about a woman who was treated with the standard of care for breast cancer in the early 1990s. Her treatment nearly killed her and she was hospitalized for nearly a year. And that was the standard of care. Her doctors probably knew about the side effects and yet prescribed it for her just as they probably did for many patients. After wards it was learned in clinical trials that the treatment probably did not good and may have done harm to her as well.

Medical practice in the US has a range of participants:
  • FDA who approves treatments, medications, etc.
  • Insurance companies who pay for these
  • Patients who want the best available treatment
  • Doctors who prescribe the treatments 
Then we add to the mix the availability of equal care to all and the patients who are willing to sue their insurance companies to get a new treatment covered. As you are aware I am not a fan of insurance companies but I find it silly for patients to sue for coverage of a treatment which is not FDA approved. I see this as interference in the medical system. (Yes, there really is a medical system in the US.) I am all for arguing with my insurance company (which I need to do this morning but that's another story) but I don't think I would sue them. Nor do I think I would want a treatment which is not FDA approved.
I am starting to digress here. Back to the subject of the book. It sounds pretty scary. I want my treatment to be FDA approved and I want it to be safe and effective. I do not want to be over treated and nor do I want to be under treated through unsafe medical treatments. I want my doctor to have my best interests at heart. 

Where I am treated, the hospital has set some relatively conservative protocols which give their doctors some leeway in treatment but provides a relatively high standard of care. I am comfortable with this. I do not want to be a guinea pig, I want to be healthy. I trust them. I don't want to end up in the next edition of this book.

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