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nikipedia's avatar

Why are you skeptical of the medical community?

Asked by nikipedia (27692points) September 14th, 2010

It seems like people are increasingly skeptical of the motives and effectiveness of western, science-based medical researchers and practitioners and everything associated with them. As a scientist, I don’t really understand why.

Has your trust been eroded by high-profile scandals involving pharmaceutical companies? If so, which ones, and do you separate the actions of the specific companies guilty of dishonesty from the rest of the medical community, or do you assume they’re all in cahoots together?

Have you personally had negative experiences with doctors failing to diagnose or treat your medical condition effectively? Something else entirely? What has caused you personally to become skeptical of medicine, of doctors, of medical research, etc?

Where did the rhetoric that drug companies want to keep people sick so they can keep making money come from? Was there a scandal in which this language was actually used by someone in a pharmaceutical company? Do we have actual reason to believe that the majority of companies think and behave this way?

For bonus points, what do you think the scientific and medical community could do differently to restore trust? Finally, what can we as a society do to ensure that pharmaceutical companies are used for good (treating and curing illness) rather than evil?

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35 Answers

poisonedantidote's avatar

As long as health care is a business, it should never be fully trusted. or if healthcare is free but they are cutting corners to save money or doing certain things like hiering temporary doctors then you should not trust it fully either.

however, im of the school of thought that vaccines work, and that for the most part doctors want to do good.

TexasDude's avatar

I haven’t been dissatisfied by the medical community in any way. I’ve only had a few negative experiences with doctors and I’ve blamed those on their own personal defects as opposed to some over-arching problem with the medical community as a whole. I’ve never once been tempted to turn to oddball witch-doctor remedies when science based medicine has failed me.

And for the record, I maintain that pharmaceutical companies do much more good than harm. Many people tend to associate the cost of some drugs with the “evil money-grubbing companies trying to kill us all” when really, the cost of the medication is a reflection of the amount of research that is necessary to produce the drugs in the first place. Pharmaceutical companies don’t go into business to be charitable or to break even, they exist to make a profit, as does any business, and they won’t and can’t just give us all free or super cheap drugs because they wouldn’t be able to stay in business, and then nobody would have access to the drugs they produce. It’s all simple economics. It may sound cold and heartless, but that’s how it works, and we are actually all better off that way.

Also, I like the fact that my doctor gets paid a shit ton of money. I want him to be motivated to help me, and what’s a better motivator than a huge paycheck? especially since he has to pay a metric fuckton for his malpractice insurance.

CMaz's avatar

I am skeptical of anyone that wants to stick their finger in my butt.

heresjohnny's avatar

Because I’m part of it.

syz's avatar

My biggest beef with medicine is insurance companies. I think that any for-profit company that claims to have my health as their main concern is clearly full of crap. Their concern is making as much money as possible.(disclaimer: I know nothing about the reliability of the organization that I linked to, but many reputable news organizations have reported record breaking profits.)

Jabe73's avatar

Not against the individual doctors or medical researchers themselves. I actually have alot of respect for people in the medical field. It is the overall health insurance and system in general that I tend to get ticked off with. I suspect the pharmeceutical industry has their own motives. Profit.

I do not blame the individual healthcare workers and dedicated scientists who really have chosen their professions to help people (where they could have made alot more money doing other things themselves for alot more money in many cases).

marinelife's avatar

Why are drug studies done and paid for by the pharmaceutical companies that are responsible for the new drug? That seems like letting the fox guard the hen house.

Over and over again, I have been treated by the medical community with arrogance and dismissiveness. Once I tried for days to get copies of my my own medical records to take to another practitioner. I was first told that it could not be done. I pointed out that they were my medical records, Finally, I had to buy the copies!

I once had a nurse practitioner show me copies of their medical report as an example of a “good” result, which they then compared with mine. Huh? WHy do I care what theirs was?

I once had a fat doctor whose shirt buttons were straining as they gapped over his belly tell me that I had to lose weight.

I was once sexually assaulted by a doctor.

I once had a gynecologist that I had been seeing for two years tell me to let him know if I ever started having a sexual relationship. To which, I, boggled, said, “But doctor, I am married (which was in my records). I am having a sexual relationship.”

Note: the above were three different doctors.

I could say more.

chyna's avatar

@ChazMaz That’s not what I heard.~

chyna's avatar

Because I had an echo cardiogram 2 weeks ago and they still “don’t have the results” (in the pissiest attitude I have ever heard). Bull.

Cruiser's avatar

I lay blame with all the lawyers who feed off the fears of our increasingly hypochondriactic society. Millions…Billions of dollars are traded to side step ridiculous lawsuits that only add to the need for protective and hugely expensive malpractice insurance policies that then force doctors to order tests and more tests to cover their asses. Plus with the slightest sniffle people are running off to the clinic or doctors office. When I grew up…if you were sick…you called the doc…he asked what is wrong and then told you what to do. No office visit or co-pay needed! The medical system sucks….totally broken and not sure it can be fixed to anybodies satisfaction!!

judochop's avatar

My plan if I get sick is to have Dr. C and Shilolo work on me. They are really the only dudes I trust.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I do not like to put all my faith and trust in the hands of one person.
My GP read the studies concluding that screening PSA tests do more harm than good for guys who have normal DREs, no symptoms and no history of cancer. For my 5 year physical he only orderd blood tests for cholesterol and other things, but not PSA . I passed with flying colors: “See you in 5 years.”
Two years later I changed insurance companies and they required a PSA test. The results were extremely high (that is bad). I took care of it ASAP a year ago and now I’m fine. I shudder to think what would have happened had I waited the 5 years.
Docs are humans and humans make mistakes.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Because I work with it.

Rarebear's avatar

I’m skeptical of anybody who does not use evidence based medicine to make clinical decisions.

I’m skeptical of anybody who suggests pseudoscience or SCAM “remedies” to treat their patients.

I’m skeptical of anybody who starts their sentence with “in my experience”, as opposed to “the data shows”

I’m skeptical of anybody who writes a prescription with a drug company pen.

I’m skeptical of anybody who refuses to accept protocols and best practice guidelines.

I’m skeptical of anybody who will settle for what’s easy as opposed to what is right.

bob_'s avatar

I’m only skeptical of the medical community when my doctor girlfriend tells me she only wants to take a 20 minute nap.

Aster's avatar

What makes me skeptical is when they keep lowering the desired test values. A diastolic of 80 on blood pressure was great for many years. When they lowered the ideal to 75 it increased their profits by not just millions but by billions of dollars. I think they have decreased the desirable glucose from 125 upper limit to 120-that is, the number you can have to avoid taking insulin. On Dr Oz’s show he said you need a 120. I have no problem with the industry making a profit. It’s the amount of profit coupled with these lowering of desirable values that troubles me.
Next you have the pharmaceutical salesmen who visit doctors’ offices with “incentives” to order their drugs. I got a bladder infection years ago and my doctor knew that Bactrim was and had been indicated for this condition for over a quarter century. But no, she had “something new” and the infection went into my kidneys. I presented the second time with a fever and she quickly put me on Bactrim. I felt like a guinea pig.
These drug “reps” are or used to offer vacations and lavish dinners if they prescribed new drugs. It reminds me of taking money “under the table” although it’s really more of a nice bribe.
Something else that may be unreasonable of me is my disappointment, shall we say, that patients are often not told of the side effects of certain medical procedures. I know about the inserts with the microscopic writing in pill bottles; I’m speaking of the possible side effects of vaccinations. The ingredients in vaccinations are horrific. The advertisements of flu shots on tv.
I had not had the flu in many, many years until I had a flu shot. Never again. And no, it wasn’t a “mild case” either. And the policies in regard to giving vaccinations to infants and children scare me to death. Do they tell you that the protection is brief? No. You’ll need a booster? Sometimes. Try asking a doctor OR nurse if you can read the contents label on a vial of vaccine.
Don’t feel guilty; it’s your shot, not hers. And CAT scans. Ask about how much radiation is in a CAT scan. One abdominal CT scan is equal to 400 chest xrays. They tried to lower the age for your first mammogram but they couldn’t quite get away with it.
Somehow the idea of shooting radiation to the chest wall seems slightly risky to me. And they call it A mammogram like they take one picture; they take more than one.
I could go on forever about chemo and radiation and the miserable “cure” rates they offer but it would take too long. I’ll put it like this: they hope it cures you before it kills you.
But if I have a pain I love taking one Advil. It works great.

Rarebear's avatar

I just love the irony. @Aster goes on a rant about pharmaceutical companies and how she thinks they’re rigging the system for their own profits and then ends it by stating she uses a drug produced by the evil pharmaceutical companies, naming it not by the generic but the brand name.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I spent 5 years addicted to muscle relaxants and pain killers because my doctor was getting more of return from my insurance company than by telling me an acupuncturist was also covered under my policy at a much lower cost to everyone.

I’ve also been in the emergency room and had a doctor visit me for less than 5 minutes, basically to look at my paperwork and introduce themselves by name, insuring I’d know who was responsible for the $300.+ bill I’d be receiving separate from my emergency room bill.

Aster's avatar

@Rarebear Yes, I wanted to be fair and say that , even though I never have xrays nor would ever accept radiation I do, of course, take an OTC pain reliever in either brand or generic, whichever I happen to lay my hand on first. I have both.
How can my taking an occasional Aleve or IBU discount the importance and, I believe, the truth in what I stated? If I hated the auto industry I’d still buy a car. I wouldn’t have a CT scan and mammograms but I’ll get a tooth xrayed. I don’t see the problem or, as you said, “irony.” To deny that the industry is rigged to rake in enormous profits and is rife with tremendous greed is ridiculous and naive. Anything for the almighty dollar.
A few people get sick from too many herbs or get healed by herbs the FDA is all over it! Raid the office! Close ‘em down! But how many people die each year from prescription drugs?

Rarebear's avatar

@Aster Well, it wouldn’t discount what you said if you were right, but you’re not.

First of all, current evidence according to JNC 7 treatment guidelines is to treat blood pressure to below 140/90, or below 130/80 if you have kidney disease or diabetes. That has nothing to do with drug company profits as you insinuate, and everything to do with improved survival. If you choose not to follow it you will die sooner.

The ADA 2010 diagnostic criteria is a patient is considered diabetic if they have two fasting blood sugars greater than 126 (no caloric intake >8 hours), symptoms of diabetes with a random blood sugar >200, or in some situations a HgbA1C>6.5 . Again, this has nothing do with drug company profits and everything do with survival. You choose to ignore it at your own peril.

Aster's avatar

@Rarebear No peril here. I have no health problems but am a firm believer that the illnesses you outlined can be cured with diet and exercise alone.

Rarebear's avatar

@Aster No, once again you are incorrect. Mild hypertension and mild hyperglycemia can SOMETIMES be treated by diet and exercise—under the direction of a qualified medical professional. But it is a grave mistake to believe that it can ALWAYS be treated by diet and exercise.

Aster's avatar

My friend’s mother died of heart failure at 54 and her sister had bypass 5 years ago. This friend has been tap dancing since age 4 but never could they get her cholesterol down. They would double her dosage but . nothing. Triple it..still really high. She’d change doctors and , of course, the new one would switch her meds…still high. She heard about a doctor and went to him. He said, “take fish oil.” She did. Next visit: huge decrease in cholesterol. He goes, “now take two.” She’s happy!

Aster's avatar

If your meds end in “cor” as in Mevacor or anything cor better research it—if it’s still available.

Austinlad's avatar

I don’t deny or discount other people’s skepticism and cynicism about the medical profession, but personally, I’ve had mostly excellent experience with doctors, hospitals and prescribed medications.

Rarebear's avatar

@Aster By all means. Don’t take your statin if you’re at risk. Statins only reduce the risk of non fatal heart attacks by 31% and reduce the risk of revascularization by 34% for at-risk individuals.

But I will budge on one point. You are correct with your implication that statins are overprescribed. They shouldn’t necessarily be given to low risk individuals unless there are other reasons.

bob_'s avatar

@Rarebear What about unethical practices by sales reps? Are those rare?

Rarebear's avatar

@bob_ Well, unethical is probably too strong a word for most cases, but that’s a point of view. Sales reps are ubiquitous in most places. In our facility they’re banned.

bob_'s avatar

@Rarebear Fair enough.

iamthemob's avatar

(1) Medicine involves creative problem solving and estimates based on experience – essentially, the art side – as much as experimentation and analysis of data – essentially, the science side. Because it is emphasized as a science, however, and not a profession, members of the medical community (doctors, in particular) have a significant amount of weight placed on their opinion – so much that it seems like fact. Therefore, when something is missed, or the diagnosis is wrong, it seems like the doctor was incompetent, careless, or lying…instead of just wrong.

(2) Our lives are in the medical community’s hands. Why shouldn’t we be critical?

Rarebear's avatar

@iamthemob Good doctors nowadays do what is called for by the data, not just on their opinion. Evidenced based medicine is the standard and the norm. You should always go to a doctor who prefaces a treatment decision by saying, “The data shows” rather than “In experience.”

iamthemob's avatar


Good doctors also misinterpret data based on their experience, or do things by experience because no data is available that elicits a clear answer. This is their professional opinion – it is an assessment based on data, but is not a scientifically (in the absolute sense) determined answer.

Does that make them bad doctors?

Rarebear's avatar

@iamthemob Good doctors should make decisions based on best medical evidence to support a therapeutic regimen. If there is no medical evidence to support a particular therapy then they should not be using it.

bob_'s avatar

Couldn’t it simply be said that there are indeed some bad doctors out there (the same way there are bad lawyers, bad financial advisers, etc.)?

Rarebear's avatar

@bob_ Sure there are bad doctors. I know a few of them.

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