Doctors and Medicines are a Double-Edged Sword
If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.
—Translation from the Greek by Ludwig Edelstein. From The Hippocratic Oath: Text, Translation, and Interpretation, by Ludwig Edelstein. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1943.
Doctors and medicines are a double-edged sword. They can heal you; they can hurt you. They can patch you up; they can tear you apart. Even good doctors make grave errors. This is a difficult topic to discuss with people. Even though they may know it is true, they want to trust doctors. And I don’t blame them. When your well-being, even your life is at stake, you want to believe you are in good hands.
When it comes to certain types of illnesses or injuries, you likely are in good hands and have little cause for concern. Some aspects of medicine are clear-cut, such as cleaning and stitching a wound, though there are often advancements that take a while to filter down to the doctor who is not careful to keep apprised, so some patients will not benefit from advances at the very time one might make a great difference.
All too often, even so-called preventive procedures, with the benefit of increased knowledge or exposure of corruption, are proved to be ineffective or even more harmful than the illness they are supposed to cure or prevent—fluoride treatments, vaccinations, colonoscopies, and mammograms come immediately to mind. Some of you will say: But these are all safe and recommended. I will say: Think again! And I have seen enough evidence to feel confident saying this. Yet it may take another twenty years or more for most doctors and then the public to embrace this truth.
Unfortunately, investments in dollars and egos are made and then exacerbated by bureaucracies, so that many scientists and physicians will cling to the incorrect information as long as possible, even promote it, at the expense of many individuals. Such so-called physicians come nowhere close to upholding the Hippocratic Oath.
It is easy to understand why many modern-day physicians do not wish to take or abide by the Oath, especially the original version. But they would do well for themselves and their patients if they could at least keep to the spirit of it. Here’s a translation of the original:
I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:
To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art—if they desire to learn it—without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.
I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.
I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.
Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.
What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.
—Translation from the Greek by Ludwig Edelstein. From The Hippocratic Oath: Text, Translation, and Interpretation, by Ludwig Edelstein. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1943.
My personal choice is to avoid doctors as much as reasonably possible. Does this mean I never seek medical help? Of course not. But it does mean I prefer to attend to the problem myself, if I can do so with reasonable efficacy and safety. And it also means that if I do see a doctor, I am prepared to be feisty and skeptical and to reject all or part of what they tell me, if I am not satisfied it is correct or advisable.
It also means I am prepared to see a different doctor or two or three or four until I find one who, at the very least, is not arrogant and who is willing to work with me rather than dictate. And it means that I refuse to be rushed or pushed into any procedure or treatment. Okay, I can think of situations in which I might choose to be rushed, but never pushed. In a dire emergency, I am sure I would make an exception for a wee bit of pushing. The question then becomes: What is a dire emergency? Of course, the answer is: It depends.
When I was much younger, my attitude was different. Being rather arrogant in my youth, without realizing that is what I was, I decided that following instructions from experts was the most rational way to behave. I am not sure I consciously decided this but it describes how I saw the world and acted in it for a short while. It made certain decisions easier, because I really wasn’t the one making them. All I had to do was to do what I was told.
It did not take me very long to realize that so-called experts can be very wrong in many instances. I soon learned that when it comes to understanding the universe, the world, and the human body, even those at the pinnacle of accomplishment in a particular area must be open to questions and to questioning themselves, or simply not be trusted. As human beings, we are always learning and gaining a better understanding, which must then change how we respond, unless we wish to keep repeating mistakes.
Folk remedies, based in observation combined with intuition and some knowledge of biology, chemistry, and physics, often turn out to be very helpful, though science may yet be unable to explain exactly why or how they work. The same is true for many herbal remedies and supplements. And a benefit with respect to SOME of these remedies is that they are far safer, far less damaging than conventional treatments.
Alas, in many cases, patients or families must push physicians into trying them, even where trying could do no harm, and they sometimes do work and work very well. But most doctors remain reluctant to use them, even when requested, because they believe they are not grounded in “science,” backed up by research. This, to me, is the height of arrogance. It may also be related to fear of lawsuits.
A glaring irony is that many interventions considered “perfectly safe,” such as childhood vaccinations and fluoride treatments, have been shown by science to have great potential for harm. In the case of vaccinations, proper studies have never even been conducted, so a lot of what is known is gathered from vaccine-injured children.
Did you know that placebos are just as effective in many instances as medications? The mental-emotional component of healing is long understood to be essential, yet it is so often neglected. How many patients have died because they were told they were going to? This is equivalent to a voodoo curse.
If doctors treated patients more like partners in a healing process, no matter how grave the prognosis, and took their heads out of the medical journals and looked at the real world, many individuals might be saved. I am sure there are many great doctors who are already doing this, but so many more are not.
Healthy food and water is a related matter few doctors understand in-depth or stay abreast of, but for some individuals, consuming or absorbing fluoride and chlorine in drinking or bathing water and in food by way of water; genetically modified foods; pesticide residues; cosmetic and hygiene product toxins; and antibiotics and hormones in meat and dairy products can cause or exacerbate illnesses. There is also the matter of some food components, such as essential enzymes, that are destroyed in pasteurization or other processing. So food is another difficult topic of conversation and another area to be alert to when working to heal yourself or working with a doctor.
Most people, and I daresay, including doctors, do not believe nutrition and toxins are a crucial factor, nor do they believe the extra cost for wholesome food, water, or hygiene products is worthwhile, or they are confused about it all, so they throw up their hands and would rather avoid the subject.
While I, too, find it difficult to tackle, I think the wholesomeness of these important enough to consider as a possible factor when someone is not feeling well. In my case, I find the idea of improving my family’s diet and environment in general very appealing, but it is a slow, incremental process of finding accurate, applicable information and healthier sources.
Both doctors and dentists have led or tried to lead me astray in many instances. Below, I offer examples, from my personal experience, as evidence of what can go wrong. This list is very long, but for those who may not yet fully understand my argument, it’s an essential.
My first obstetrician did not wait a reasonable time for me to naturally deliver the placenta from my first child, instead she tugged and broke it, so then I had to endure a painful “scraping” procedure and was put at greater risk for infection; nurses, I presume at the doctors bidding, whisked my newborn to the nursery and fed her a bottle without my permission, making it much harder to breastfeed, likely causing the mastitis (a breast tissue infection) that I got later; a doctor at a clinic told me to stop breastfeeding my daughter because it was rotting her teeth (it was one broken tooth that the doctor had not bothered to ask about first; her other teeth were perfect); our pediatrician (no longer so after this incident) informally accused me or my husband of child abuse, simply because my daughter shyly stepped behind me when the doctor came toward her—“Who’s hitting you?” he said; almost every doctor of ours blindly pushed vaccinations on all three of my children; almost every dentist blindly pushed regular fluoride treatments; a respected orthodontist recommended braces at too young an age, so they had to be repeated later; a different respected orthodontist told me, without warning—in front of my daughter!—that her chin-button was inadequate and that she would grow up chin-less unless she had her jaw bone broken and reset—then later retracted that advice without apology; that same orthodontist sent the same daughter to an oral surgeon (who was also culpable—they had full Xrays!) for teeth extractions in his office, which he could not complete because some teeth were dangerously near her sinus cavities, meaning that she had to go to the hospital to finish the painful procedure and had to risk anesthetic another time.
And the list could go on, just from my personal experiences. These were not back-room quacks or bumpkins. Almost all were highly recommended or respected; all had proper credentials and education. Of course, they all meant well; no one intended any harm. But look at the harm they did and the trouble they caused! Imagine how much trouble we’d have suffered if we went to the doctor more frequently.
Now here is how I handled a more recent experience differently and improved the outcome. My son’s baby teeth had weak enamel, which no one could adequately explain. They looked mottled and some had minor cavities. I wonder whether it was fluoride in our drinking water, but I’m not sure. My son tried but could not sit still enough for treatment. After the first two dentists tried and failed to repair his teeth, I was told, by a pediatric dentist, that he would have to be admitted to a hospital to have many of his baby teeth extracted and that his permanent teeth might be damaged if I did not comply. Suspecting this was poor advice, especially because my son did not have any infections or pain, I ignored it and waited, even though it was nerve wracking because I was going against an “expert.” Moreover, I had to sign a form saying I was offered the treatment for him and refused it, which felt very distrustful, oppressive, and chilling.
Later, once my son was old enough to sit still, I searched for a sensible dentist and found two. Neither chastised me for having refused surgery and waited. Happily, no harm had resulted, none at all. My son has a healthy, cavity-free set of adult teeth. Very few extractions of baby teeth were necessary (most fell out or were loose anyway), and they were all done quickly in the dental chair. His tooth enamel is normal and in good condition; and we do not allow fluoride treatments, use fluoridated toothpaste, or drink fluoridated tap water (unless we temporarily run out of well or spring water).
Looking back, I can think of at least six people I’ve known who would likely have lived longer had they been willing to challenge their doctor’s advice, even to a minor extent. Can I prove they would have lived longer? No. Yet the research supports my belief. Iatrogenic—physician-caused—illness kills hundreds of thousands of individuals a year, just in America, and this figure excludes those killed by medical interventions that fall outside the studied categories.
Recalling the mental states and reactions of these individuals to their prognoses and treatments, I would say they might have been better off, under the circumstances, never even knowing what a doctor claimed was wrong with them.
In terms of prescription drugs and physician-neglect of interactions and side-effects, I can think of at least ten people who are being damaged every day by the multiple prescription medications they are taking. This is a special problem for intellectually disabled individuals, partly owing to rules governing their care. From my observation, I suspect many lead extra-constricted lives and suffer unnecessarily because of over-medication. This is a complicated matter close to my own heart, and it deserves an essay of its own.
Of course, at the same time, I know equally many people who have been saved and helped by doctors, especially in emergency situations. So don’t get me wrong, I am deeply grateful for advanced, life-saving treatments and procedures. I am grateful for all the physicians out there doing their best to help people.
Yet even the very best of the best make mistakes, too, so patients owe it to themselves and to their doctors to pay attention, to ask questions, to seek other opinions, and to take time, whenever possible, for consideration of options.
My feeling is that when it comes to your body, you should trust your intuition and pursue it, even if you fear looking foolish. If you need a doctor, find one who will be your full partner in an investigatory AND healing process.
This essay is a result of finding conversation completely inadequate for discussing this subject, especially for me, because I tend to speak in abstractions, despite best intentions. I try to keep my mouth shut or to speak more eloquently, but instead I blurt phrases such as, “I don’t see what good running to the doctor every five minutes will do.” And, “They are liable to railroad you into the hospital.” Or, “Antibiotics could make you worse.” I know, know, I sound awful!
Yet all of these statements are true for many situations. The trouble is they aren’t useful in every case. And I know that. Alas, there is often no opportunity in conversation to explain this thoroughly. By the time one thinks of what to say, talk has turned in another direction, and everyone has made up his or her own mind on the matter and moved on.
But this subject really is significant, life or death for some, and begs to be talked about. Or written about. Reading and writing are a form of mental conversation, after all.
My own comfort level with avoiding and questioning doctors is very high compared to most. I know this and would never intentionally suggest anyone emulate me in my extremity, unless that is a chosen goal for him or her. I would also advise greater caution when it comes to seeking care for children and the elderly.
My own solution was to find a doctor who is trained in conventional AND holistic medicine. I know I can rely on her to let nature take its course and to use natural remedies when it is reasonable to do so. Should I need help for my son, I am not stuck with someone who is inadequately trained or who is hostile to a natural, non-interventionist approach.
But anyone who feels a need for medical advice or care should seek it, without hesitation, even if it is from a doctor who is unfamiliar. And regardless of whether that doctor is the one for you, remembering the following may be very helpful:
- Be as fierce about defending yourself from harmful advice, procedures, medications, and treatments as you are fierce about seeking ones that may be helpful.
- Insofar as you are capable, become your own expert about yourself and your body and your symptoms. Look beyond the surface. Question even the expert-experts. Use your creativity to find what works best for you. Seek alternatives. Be fierce and fearless!
- If there is something safer to try first before conventional treatment, and time is not of the essence, and you want to try it, then go for it.
- If there is an unconventional treatment that can’t hurt but might help, especially after conventional treatments have failed, push hard for it. What have you got to lose?
- Never accept a prophesy from a doctor; they are not gods nor oracles. Seek multiple opinions for serious concerns. Should you ever be unfortunate enough to see a doctor who says with authority that you have only so long to live, ignore him or her. Keep looking until you find a doctor who says instead, let’s see how long you CAN live and how well you can feel while you do.
Some may say to me after reading this: Thanks for your concern, but I’d rather just trust my doctor. All this is too much nitpicking for me. And who are you to say, anyway?
If you make that choice, fine, but at least now you have learned about some other options should you change your mind somewhere along the road.
Here are links to articles that provide support for my assertions or additional information:
National Vaccine Information Center
Dr. Tenpenny Vaccine Information Center
Americans Exposed to Atomic Bomb Levels of Radiation through Medical Imaging, CT Scans, Mammograms
MAMMOGRAMS – WHO NEEDS THEM?
The Fluoride Deception
Fluoride & the Brain: An Interview with Dr. Phyllis Mullenix
The Dangers of Colonoscopies
The Hippocratic Oath Today
Placebo Effect: A Cure in the Mind
How the Power of Expectations Can Allow You to ‘Bend Reality’
The Power of the Placebo: Is Healing All in Our Mind?
6 Ways to Protect Your Family from the Dangers of GMOs
Is US Health Really The Best in the World?
Doctors Are The Third Leading Cause of Death in the US, Killing 225,000 People Every Year
Iatrogenic Disease: The 3rd Most Fatal Disease in the USA
Death by Allopathy
National Patient Safety Foundation
American Holistic Medical Association
Fish Oil Helped Save Our Son