To earn money for graduate school, I worked as an epidemiologist (medical statistician and researcher). I remember how
shocked I was at the frequency with which fundamental statistical assumptions were violated in the medical literature,
and at the pseudo-science that passed for fact. My professors would have had my head if I produced such sloppy research
as I discovered in these journals. It was then that I learned about Iatrogenic disease (disease caused by physicians):
Iatrogenic disease is the third largest medical cause of death in North America (Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association,284(4)).
Number of physicians in the US: 700,000 Deaths caused by MDs per year in the US: more than 120,000
Both the JAMA paper and longitudinal studies by the WHO have concluded that physician induced death is the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. Iatrogenic disease results from incorrect prescriptions, diagnosis, mistakes, over prescription, failure to be current, and general incompetence. For example in the U.S.A alone, one person dies every 3-5 minutes from causes traceable to side effects of approved pharmaceutical drugs prescribed by physicians. This is 3-5 times the number who die each year from illicit drugs.
A presidential task force in the United States labeled medical errors a "national problem of epidemic proportions."
Members estimated that the "cost associated with these errors in lost income, disability, and health care costs is as much as $29 billion annually." More people in the USA die from medical mistakes each year than from highway accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. In Canada the numbers are difficult to ascertain due to lobbying on the part of the Canadian Medical Association not to collect necessary statistics. However the numbers are thought to be proportionally higher. In other countries, epidemiological evidence is slowly being submitted to journals, indicating similar evidence of an epidemic of physician caused death and suffering. From your own experience, would you agree with the conclusion of the Presidential task force that allopathic medical errors are a "problem of epidemic proportions"?
You may also be interested in some pages on iagrogenic disease in general. An interesting starting point is here.
The Journal of Medical Ethics also makes an interesting - albeit somewhat selectively biased - read.
Do drug companies artificially conspire to fix prices at the cost of health? US Department of Justice documents
"Today in the US, only a medical doctor can diagnose a disease, prescribe something, and cure you. Nobody else can say "diagnose", "prescribe" and "cure". That means that nobody can cure you but a medical doctorÖ.I canít say "Chaparral is the cure for a tumour". I canít say garlic is the cure for cholestrol or high blood pressure. They have made the laws. So that makes me look stupid, impotent, and it makes the herbs look weak and wimpy. I canít as a herbalist, say that an herb will cure, although a lot of prescription drugs are made from herbs. This was a tactic by organised medicine to wipe out the opposition, by making them look silly and impotentÖthey have the wordsÖthey control the high ground. They can walk out and say, "Yes, if you take this drug, you will cure yourself." But they hired lawyers and got the government behind them. If I say that, I go to jail. It isnít because the herbs donít work and the drugs are better, itís just because they have more money, they lobbied more and got the law passed in their favour. That is why people get this idea that herbs donít cure you."
Hospitals - the sanctorum sanctorum of the business of medicine - are particularly dangerous to health. In Australia simply being a patient in an acute care hospital carries on average, a 200-fold greater risk of dying from the care process than being in traffic, and a 2000-fold greater risk than working in the chemical industry. (Source: Healthcare Symposium Abstracts, Australia). The British Medical Journal The Lancet(Vol 349 Feb 1,1997) published findings that just under 20% of hospital patients have had some adverse event occur due not to their illness rather to hospital mistakes. The study, which followed 1047 consecutive patients admitted to three units of a large urban teaching hospital, found that there were more adverse events the longer the patients were in the hospital. In fact, the likelihood of experiencing a problem increased 6% for each day of hospitalization. Here are some hospital addition statistics for the United States. Population proportion is largely consistant with other western countries:
12,000 physician approved surgery later found to be unnecessary ( Annu Rev Public Health. 1992;13:363-383)
7,000 medication errors in hospitals (Lancet. 1998;351:643-644.)
20,000 other errors in hospitals (JAMA. 1998;279:1200-1205.)
80,000 infections in hospitals (JAMA. 1998;279:1200-1205.)
106,000 negative effects of drugs (Kohn L,et al Building a Safer Health System., Nat.Academy Press; 1999.)
Is it any wonder that more and more people are doing everything possible to avoid the hospital when they are ill?
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, over 60% of those seeking health solutions have left traditional allopathic medicine in favor of non-traditional medicine due to dissatisfaction with allopathic physicians. Research has also shown that the numbers would be far higher if insurance companies would fund alternatives to allopathic medicine.
It is of interest too that there are a number of studies showing that the more education a person has, the less likely they are to trust or use the services of traditional allopathic physicians. The implications hopefully are obvious. In part this is because the'science' of medicine is highly suspect. (For example, the British Medical Journal recently published epidemiological findings indicating at best 15% of allopathic care has a good scientific basis - please see the article for further details). In part too this is due to the habitues of blame on the part of many physicians - a difficult to diagnose illness is often seen as the patient's fault.
For example, if the diagnosis is not obvious and standard tests turn up negative, many physicians tend to assume there are psychological factors involved. Of course they have a complete lack of qualification to pursue these avenues, and worse often cause damage and misdiagnosis by so doing. Incidentally psychiatry - another area of allopathic medicine - has caused unimaginable suffering in many. There is a large literature debunking much of this pseudo-science. See for example 'Debunking Psychiatry' by Dr. B. E. Levine, or 'Insane Psychiatry: A Profession Run Amok' by Nicholas Regush. Of particular interest is Thomas Szasz book 'Liberation by Oppression: A Comparative Study of Slavery and Psychiatry'.
The medical establishment works closely with the drug multinationals whose main objective is profit, and whose worst nightmare would be an epidemic of good health. A Harvard Medical Practice Study found evidence that in the United States as many as 180,000 die each year as a result of adverse reactions to prescription. (source: JAMA v.272)
Lots of drugs must be sold. In order to achieve this drug companies have been caught in lies about test results, fraudulent activities, and kickbacks to both politicians and the medical profession. (See for example, the US Department of Justice documentation on a recent five billion dollar conspiracy of price fixing - please see the link below for detail.) Sadly doctors have become the principal salespeople of the drug companies. They are rewarded with research grants, gifts, and many perks (please see below for a current report of this subtle bribery). The principal buyers are the public - from infants to the elderly - who are thoroughly medicated and vaccinated. Politicians too are under their sway - for example the US congress has approved a law to prevent parents of autistic children from suing pharmaceutical companies over childhood vaccines said to cause brain damage (sourceL Washington Post, article 56918, Nov. 14, 2002). Drug companies have come to control medicine, and to a large extent have come to arbitrate what medical schools teach as fact (In the USA alone, in excess of $6 billion is spent by drug companies on such 'education' (source: Washington Post study - see below - and UNESCO report). The result as indicated supra, is an epidemic of preventable death and suffering.
There is a long history of questionable science on the part of the medical profession. To give a single example, MDs in the 1940s encouraged patients to smoke - smoking was'scientifically' proven to be beneficial to health. There are a plethora of other such examples - see Thomas Khun's work. (Fads cycle through medicine too - the latest is 'evidence based' medicine. There have been many others.) As a result of poor science, fads, drug, and political agendas, medical students are taught a habitus of acquisition and a belief system (see Szasz's work, referenced below) rather than an understanding of research and how to scientifically question the validity of their knowledge base and practice. GPs are not academics, are not research scientists, and are not qualified to evaluate what drug companies, or even most medical journals, are reporting.
Of course some allopathic physicians do much good - setting broken bones, treating traumatic injury, aiding in difficult births, etc. But other health professionals can do these tasks too, viz midwives, osteopaths, speech language pathologists, etc. And yes, certainly some drugs can be very beneficial. But so can many herbal and alternative treatments. the medical establishment however, like any multibillion dollar business adverse to competition, has mercilessly sought out and destroyed alternative and successfull methodologives. Working hand in hand with insurance companies, the drug industry, and lobbyists the multibillion dollar business of medicine seeks to protect its monopolistic power and profit. the witch hunt by allopathic physicians against acupuncture just a few years ago is but one of many examples.
A GP's relative expertise and training is very low when compared with that of someone with a research PhD in most sciences. Once accepted into a medical school, it is difficult to fail - approximately 95% of medical students complete within 3-4 years (University of Virginia study). Often not even a three year BA is necessary for entrance (depending upon school). This is radically different from PhD students, particularly in the sciences, who must already have a Bachlors degree, a Masters degree, good grades, good references, hopefully one or more publications, and the money and energy to last the average of 10 years post Masters degree that it takes to complete (Michigan State University study). And unlike potential MDs, the failure rate is very high: >60% of PhD candidates do not finish (Statistics Canada, University Affairs reports, A.Tucker, Canadian Association of Graduate Studies).
In other words, the claim often voiced in the media by representatives of medical associations that MDs' years of training in large part makes them worthy of their high status and wages is highly questionable when compared to most PhD doctorates, particularly in the sciences. (Incidently, the so called 'life and dealth' decisions should not entitle MD's to special status - many scientists, myself included, have designed systems on which hundreds of thousands of lives depend on a daily basis.)
This can also be argued for many, (though not all), of the so-called medical specialists, whose 'experise' can be as little as some extra months of post-MD training (for a significant salary raise). Remember too that'specialists' seldom have knowledge outside of their narrow focus area yet both prescribe and believe in their expertise in related areas.
For example, if you have a functional brain injury most MDs will send you to a neurologist, whose training in the functional aspect of such injuries is almost non-existant and whose pontifications are based almost entirely on opinion rather than science. The result as any brain injury group will report, is deleterious to patients. (Incidently, neuropsychologists are trained in functional brain injury loss, not neurologists.) Yet MDs and MD specialists have become the arbiters of all aspects of health in most communities, at tremendous cost to patient health and quality of life. (See also comments by Dr. Shultz, below.)
Sadly allopathic physicians have often become so enamored of their status in society that they mistake such status for competence, little aware for the considerable research debunking much of their so-called knowledge and indicating so many of their interventions to be iagrogenic. How many lives have oncologists really saved? (See comments by Drs. Diamond and Cowden, below). Try seriously questioning the correctness of your allopathic physician's treatments or assumptions and see what sort of response you get. Try the same with a'specialist'. No wonder iatrogenic disease is endemic and epidemic.
You may enjoy the book The Medical Mafia by Guylaine Lanctot, M.D. or Confessions of a Medical Heretic by Robert Mendelsohn, M.D. or The Theology of Medicine byThomas Szasz. Medicine is BIG business, with a questionably educated, elite pseudo-scientific class perpetuating the myth of their own expertise in order to maintain status, money, and societal prestige.
Whilst a few individual practitioners may be wonderful healers and dedicated very hardworking professionals, sadly the same may not be said about the vast majority. The statistics on iatrogenia speak for themselves. Allopathic medicine is more disease than cure.
You may be interested in The American Iagrogenic Association.
"The field of U.S. cancer care is organized around a medical monopoly that ensures a continuous flow of money to the pharmaceutical companies, medical technology firms, research institutes, and government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and quasi-public organizations such as the American Cancer Society (ACS)."--John Diamond, M.D., & Lee Cowden, M.D
The Washington Post has recently done some undercover investigation to illustrate the extent of big business as medicine and the perks physicians receive for not deviating from the script: report.
A study in the Britsh Medical Journal. (2000;320:774-777) concluded that up to 20% of consecutive patients experience negative effects in outpatient settings, resulting in:
116 million extra physician visits
77 million extra prescriptions
17 million emergency department visits
8 million hospitalizations
3 million long-term admissions
199,000 additional deaths
$77 billion in extra costs
Iatrogenia: Disease caused by physicians is the third greatest medical cause of death, preceded only by cancer and cardio-vascular disease. Source: Journal of the American Medical Association
At the ouset people who study are in search of the essence of nature, but after
a while they get lost in the forest of books and can't get out."
"The world is awash in high-IQ fools fascinated by their own shallow
cleverness much like an ape entertaining itself by playing with its own dung."