How Doctors Do Harm

How Doctors Do Harm

The tide is turning.  When once it was unheard of for a doctor's opinion to be challenged, today's patients are getting second and third opinions, seeking out alternative care and pursuing natural, organic solutions to their health issues.

And now the medical system is being challenged by none other than the Chief Medical and Scientific Officer and Executive Vice President of the American Cancer Society.  How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick In America by Dr. Otis Webb Brawley, exposes the nasty side of medicine – those things we hear of, suspect, and experience that erode our confidence in conventional medical treatment.

Dr. Brawley shocks us with statistics.  Americans are suffering and dying avoidable deaths.  America spends 1.5 times as much per person on health care than any other country, yet it ranks 50th in life expectancy and is 47th in infant mortality.  He blames unnecessary and unproven treatments on a lack of scientific knowledge and the financial attractiveness of supporting pharmaceutical companies, medical manufacturers and hospital financial targets.  This is a shame.

The most significant statement Dr. Brawley makes lies in the attention to treatment of illness rather than attention to promoting health and preventing disease.  After all, disease is big business, not to mention job security for many people.

"The triad of obesity, lack of physical activity and high caloric intake (bad diet) is creating a tsunami of chronic disease.  If the system persists as is, medical costs will grow dramatically over the next several decades as the number of patients with diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and orthopedic injury dramatically grows."[i]

America is focused on sick care refinancing, not health care reform.  The medical system is bankrupting the economy – the U.S. spends 18% of its money on medicine.  The average cost of a health insurance policy for a family of four is $19,400 per year.  Much of that cost is born by the family itself as health care benefits are becoming too costly for the employer to provide.  In  Canada, the government spends about two thirds of that amount providing health care, and citizens complain that their health care needs are not being met.  And much of that money is spent on unnecessary and often unproven treatment.

Health care consumers have every reason to be angry.  The costs are unsustainable, and most importantly, the well being of every Canadian and American is at risk.  Thirty-five years ago, Senator George McGovern criticized the war on cancer, saying that the annual billion dollars provided by the government was being misspent on treatment and ought to be directed toward prevention.  "How can you assert the vital relationship between diet and cancer and then submit a preliminary budget that only allocates a little more than 1% of the National Cancer Institute Funds to this problem?"  This statement was made by Senator McGovern at the 1976 U.S. Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs.

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