Everyone wants to trust their doctor. It is the basis of good healthcare. Doctors hold an amazing level of influence over our lives. Doctors have to train very hard and most of them have excellent expertise; however, they are not perfect. One of the common things they do is always present themselves as experts. It is very important for doctors to have a strong personal image of themselves when so many of them deal with life or death issues.
When a decision that a person can make may result in the death or survival of another person, it automatically becomes a very serious task. There are also the issues of malpractice that may come up if a doctor makes a mistake. Doctors are people and people of all kinds make mistakes. To expect doctors to be perfect is not realistic. For these reasons and much more, doctors may be reluctant to tell their patients some things.
Here are twenty shocking things that your doctor may not tell you.
20. A Placebo Maybe as Effective as Medication
The placebo effect comes from a person’s expectation that some form of treatment will work. When researchers do clinical trials of a new drug to gain approval for its sale, they often conduct double-blind studies. In these studies, one-half of those in the trial get the drug being tested and the other half of the test group gets a placebo. Neither the patients nor the health care provider knows which is the real drug and which is the placebo. If the real drug is just slightly more effective than a placebo it is considered a successful result. However, the difference between the effectiveness of the placebo and the real drug may be very small and even caused by simple statistical margins of error.
19. Many Natural Remedies are Better and Cheaper than Pharmaceuticals
Most patients, when they go to a traditional doctor, expect to be given a prescription. This is one reason why doctors frequently over-prescribe medications. If a patient does not get a prescription they think they did not get proper treatment. Traditional doctors are not trained in natural remedies while in medical school, so they usually do not have knowledge of them. For example, sometimes a change in diet is all that is needed to improve health. Lots of problems can be caused by food allergies. Traditional thinking can also be wrong. For decades, the traditional thinking was that stress was the cause of stomach ulcers until it was discovered that the ulcers were caused by a bacteria. This is why it is good to seek alternative therapy along with traditional healthcare.
18. They May Not Know What is Wrong
Doctors always seem to be confident; however, they actually may not really know what is wrong with a person. It is not always clear what the correct diagnosis should be because many illnesses have similar symptoms. Doctors use tests to help them figure out what is going on with a particular patient. If they do not order the correct tests or if the results are inconclusive, they may not be able to give the proper diagnosis. Nobody wants to hear from their doctor that the doctor does not know what is wrong. This is one of the reasons why doctors give a wrong diagnosis when they are not sure. It is best to get a second and even a third opinion for any major illness. It is also good to see a specialist for particular troubles.
17. You Can Get Sicker by Going to the Hospital
Because hospitals are full of sick people, they are also full of contaminants and things that are contagious. A person can go into the hospital for a routine procedure and get deadly ill from another disease. There is a tremendous problem with antibiotic resistant bacteria. These contagious bacteria can spread through the air in hospitals. One might go into the hospital for a knee replacement surgery and catch pneumonia or tuberculosis. The Center for Disease Control in the USA reports that most deaths from antibiotic resistant bacteria happen from being exposed to them in healthcare facilities. In the USA, about two million people get an illness from antibiotic resistant bacteria and this results in around 23,000 annual deaths.
16. Misdiagnosis is a Serious Problem
The National Center for Policy Analysis in the United States reports the estimate that 10% to 20% of medical cases receive a misdiagnosis. Of the misdiagnosed cases, 28% are life threatening or result in a preventable death. Over 40,000 people in the USA that are misdiagnosed die each year. There are about 500 million primary care visits in America each year and around 500,000 of those people are misdiagnosed. Many doctors who make an incorrect diagnosis are not aware of their mistake. This is because patients go to another physician for a second opinion or the patients do not learn about the misdiagnosis until years later.
15. Vaccines Can Cause More Illness
Vaccines do not always work and may make some people ill due to an allergic reaction. Moreover, vaccines cause viruses to mutate more quickly and viruses can become more resistant to the vaccines. Science Daily reported that a study done in China concluded that the Hepatitis B vaccines used there caused the virus to mutate at double the normal rate. These mutations are able to avoid the effectiveness of the vaccine, which means new vaccination strategies become necessary. The same problem occurs with the flu vaccines. Each “flu shot” may only be effective for one strain of the virus. Bacterial infections like the one that causes Whopping Cough are increasing in spite of the vaccinations. In America, there was an outbreak of Whooping Cough during 2012 at a level that had not been seen since the 1950s. The reduced effectiveness of some vaccines combined with antibiotic resistant bacteria is now a major healthcare issue.
14. Side Effects of Drugs
Doctors are so busy they usually do not have time to explain the potential side effects of drugs that can be far worse than the illness being treated. Most doctors simply wait for the patient to complain about something that can be caused by the side effects. These side effects can be very dangerous. There have been car accidents where people were killed because the drivers had a bad reaction to the pharmaceutical drug they were taking. Chemotherapy has such bad side effects that it almost kills the patient when trying to reduce cancer. Even commonly prescribed drugs can have negative side effects, which can be different for people based on age, weight, gender, and what other drugs they are taking.
13. Taking Aspirin Can Cause Internal Bleeding
Many doctors recommend taking a small dose of aspirin each day to reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke; however, there is a risk of internal bleeding from the constant use of aspirin. A research study estimated that of 10,000 people who took daily aspirin about 33 to 46 of them would receive the benefit of reduced heart attacks or strokes over a ten year period. The same study concluded that out of the same 10,000 people 49 would have serious internal bleeding and 117 would have bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. Taking regular aspirin increases the risk of internal bleeding by 37% and increases the risk of serious internal bleeding by 38%. If you are in good health taking aspirin daily can do more harm than good.
12. X-Rays Cause Cancer
Diagnostic X-rays cause some people to develop cancer. A study done in the UK found that supposedly safe X-rays caused around 700 cases of cancer each year. The study reported that women who had X-ray exams while pregnant were more likely to have children who had cancer. The study also found that for those who already have cancer, X-rays made the disease become worse. Everyone is exposed to some X-rays due to the background radiation that hits the earth. Airplane pilots and flight attendants have an increased risk of cancer than people who stay mostly on the ground because the gamma radiation exposure is greater at high altitudes. A woman who has a mammogram is exposed to the same amount of radiation that normally is absorbed over three or four months. This radiation exposure from a mammogram is intense and happens in seconds. Because of the intensity, it can trigger cancer, so some of the mammograms used to look for breast cancers may actually be causing cancer.
11. Some Doctors Get Paid for the Drugs they Prescribe
Some unethical doctors have found ways to earn money for prescribing certain drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are not supposed to pay a doctor to prescribe drugs; however, there have been cases where this happened. There are also workarounds, such as when a doctor has stock ownership in a pharmaceutical company making the drugs they prescribe. One outrageous case was that of Dr. Joseph L. Biederman a professor at Harvard Medical School who started prescribing anti-psychotic drugs to two-year-old children that he diagnosed as having bipolar depression. These drugs were not approved for use for children under the age of ten. The pharmaceutical companies making the drugs paid the doctor $1.6 million. While this type of corruption is not rampant, it does exist and any doctor doing this is certainly not going to tell anyone about such a conflict of interest when prescribing certain drugs.
10. A Doctor May Have a Criminal History
Doctors are not required to disclose their criminal history to patients. Additionally, most patients would never check to see if there were any actions taken against a doctor by the licensing board. There are plenty of doctors with drunk-driving convictions and even some who are convicted sex offenders. The General Medical Council in the UK did a study of UK doctors during 2013 and found that 800 had criminal records. Being convicted of a crime does not necessarily cause a doctor to lose a license to practice medicine. Some doctors continue to practice even after their license has been revoked. This is not something most patients would even think about; however, it might be a good idea to check to see if your doctors have a criminal history instead of just assuming they do not.
9. Many Tests are Unnecessary
There are two things that cause this problem. The first is that doctors have a fear of a malpractice lawsuit so they run many tests as a form of self-defense against future legal problems. The second thing that happens is in hospitals where unnecessary tests are done because they make money for the hospital. There is very little that can be done to alleviate this problem. Doctors have the ultimate responsibility for the tests that they order and patients cooperate because they do not have any good reason not to follow the doctor’s orders. There are organizations such as Hospital Care in the U.S. that review the quality of care in hospitals and rank them. There are research studies that have been conducted trying to estimate the level of unnecessary tests; however, there is no easy way for consumers to judge if a test is necessary except by going to another doctor for a second opinion to compare the recommendations.
8. Antibiotics are Overused
Antibiotics are used way too much. They are only effective against bacterial infections; however, they are often prescribed for the wrong illnesses. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, so if you have a cold or the flu antibiotics will not help. Nevertheless, many people think they work for these things and doctors prescribe them for the wrong reasons. Antibiotics are also used extensively in factory farming and this means they are in the food supply. There are antibiotics found in the water of municipal sources in diluted amounts. Bacteria are very good at mutating and fast at changing in response to antibiotics. E-coli is one of the most common bacteria and it has very virulent strains now that are completely resistant to antibiotics. This problem is only going to get worse.
7. Good Nutrition is the Best Cure for Many Illnesses
You are what you eat. Obesity is a major cause of serious illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. Rather than taking a bunch of pills, people need to change their diets. Cutting down on carbohydrate intake is a very good start. There is sugar in almost everything. Any processed food has sugar in it. This is because the manufacturers learned that consumers buy more of their products and think they taste better when there is sugar in them. Sugar is found is really surprising things like the hamburger buns from the fast food restaurants and canned tomato soup. If you start to read the ingredients list on the products you buy, you will be shocked to learn that almost all of them contain sugar. The ingredient list will not simply say sugar all of the time. Instead, it might say things like barley malt, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, maltose, or sucrose. SugarScience.UCSF.edu says there are 61 different ingredient names for sugar!
6. Generic Drugs are Just as Effective as Brand Name Drugs
Sometimes doctors prescribe the brand name drugs because this is a matter of habit. About 60% of the most commonly used drugs for all kinds of conditions are available as generic versions because if they have been around for awhile and used effectively the patent expires. After a patent expires, any manufacturer can make a generic version of the drug. The ingredients are exactly the same; however, the price is much less. Additionally, there is a significant difference in the price for the same drugs in different countries. For example, if you live in the USA, cross the border to Canada or Mexico and you will be shocked how much cheaper the pharmaceutical drugs are. As long as you have a prescription you can buy them and bring them back to the USA. The filmmaker Michael Moore made a documentary movie called “Sicko” that showed that the price of drugs in Cuba was about 5% of the cost of the same drugs in the USA. Be prudent and ask your physician when they write a prescription to indicate generic drugs rather than brand names.
5. Pain-Killers are Really Addictive
If you have a condition that causes severe pain your doctor may prescribe serious pain-killers. After the pain dissipates, you may have a new problem. You can easily become addicted to pain-killers and once addicted is it very hard to stop taking them. Elvis Presley who was the spokesperson for the U.S. President Nixon’s “War on Drugs,” became addicted to prescription drugs and that eventually was one of the reasons he died. He made the mistake of thinking that if a doctor prescribed the drugs that it was OK to take them. Michael Jackson died from an injection of Propofol even while under the supervision of his personal physician, Conrad Murray, who went to jail for two years because of this. There are really powerful drugs like Oxycontin, which are opiates that are as addictive as heroin. Be extremely careful with pain-killers and make a plan to reduce the dosage and stop using them as soon as possible.
4. Doctors Make Mistakes
Doctors are not perfect. This is why they call what they do a medical “practice,” rather than a medical certainty. Most doctors are working very hard and may be tired or stressed. Under such conditions, mistakes are made. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that medical negligence is the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. During 2012, over US$3 billion was paid for malpractice lawsuits in America. This was equal to a payout every 43 minutes in the USA. Doctors are not infallible, although most would like to be. There are all kinds of mistakes. Surgeries are performed in hospitals on the wrong body part because the patient’s files get mixed up. Parents are given the wrong babies. A life-threatening misdiagnosis may be made.
3. Mixing Drugs Can Cause Contradictions
If you are under the care of a physician, especially if you are seeing more than one, make a list of all the drugs you are taking including any vitamins or supplements. Give this list to all your doctors and ask them if there are any contradictions between all the things you are taking. Drugs have very different effects when used in combination with other drugs. The effects of taking multiple drugs together can be very dangerous. Also, tell your doctors about your level of alcohol use because alcohol is also a drug. When combined with a pain-killer drinking can multiply the effects very seriously making it extremely dangerous to drive or even use a lawn mower. If you are seeing more than one physician, which is quite common, they will not know about what drugs have been prescribed by the other doctor unless you tell them.
2. Safer Times for Surgery
Fox News reported that a study of 55 million patients concluded there is a 2% extra chance of dying after recovering from surgery on weekends when compared to weekdays. Doctors and healthcare workers like to have time off on the weekends just like everyone else. Even if your primary care physician is “on call” during the weekend for emergencies they are less likely to visit you in the hospital. The doctor that knows you the best is also in the best position to notice if something is going wrong and know what to do about it. If you are scheduled for surgery on Friday and recovering from it, there are 60 hours to wait until the regular staff comes back in. Those hours right after surgery are the most dangerous times. Two percent may not sound like much; however of the 55 million patients that is about 1,100,000 who died. If you need surgery, schedule it for a Monday for the best chance of survival during recovery.
1. A Treatment Can Kill You
When you go to see a doctor, one of the most important things that patients want is the reassurance. This makes it very difficult for the doctor to tell you bad things. For example, there is always the risk of unexpected death simply by going under anesthesia. Most people can tolerate anesthesia very well, but a few will die from it. There are cases of deaths that occurred from anesthesia used for dental procedures. Many people prefer “pain-free” dental work and like to be put to sleep with anesthesia, with the expectation of waking up after all the dental work is finished. When the risk is very low, the doctor will probably not even mention this possibility because it adds to the patient’s stress, which is also a risk. If the risk is high, the doctor will probably discuss this possibility and even may ask you to sign a form that states you understand the risk.
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