Tuesday, January 10, 2012 Post By: Grayne Wetzky

Don't trust your doctor

A couple of years a ado my daughter broke her arm while she was playing with her brothers. As upsetting as it was at the time, a broken arm usually heals pretty cleanly and without further incident. That was fortunately the case with my daughters arm, but the healing process thought me a valuable lesson: Never trust your doctor.

It's not that our doctor did anything wrong. My daughters arm healed without complications, he followed up on her progress regularly and gave us good feedback on what to expect and how long the recovery process would be. I am assuming that my experience was pretty identical to what happens to thousands of unlucky bone breakers every day.
If I had never experience how a broken bone is treated in another country, I probably never would have thought twice about the process. However, as the treatment of my daughters arm dragged on, I started to realize that in Norway bones heal by themselves without the aid of biweekly x-rays. At first I thought that our physician was just being extra careful, but the break was not complicated and there were no signs of complications so I had to assume the frequent follow ups were simply routine.

It might seem strange to complain about our doctor following up an injury too closely, after all everybody wants to know that their injuries are treated properly right? What I realized after a few weeks though was that the many trips to the doctor's office were not really to ensure top notch treatment, rather that we had become a convenient cash cow for the doctor.

I got wise to what was going on on our fourth visit back after the arm had been declared to heal properly. We had been called back for appointment every two weeks to check for progress. On every visit we had to wait for a new set of x-rays and then wait in line until the doctor could see us. When our number was finally called we spent 40 seconds to a minute with the doctor so he could declare that everything still looked fine. The last appointment I went to was 2 and a half months after the arm was broken, which means the cast had been off for almost a month. The doctor still kept scheduling appointments though. This kind of follow-up is completely unnecessary, American bones doesn't heal slower or with less accuracy than Norwegian bones. I decided to not go to any other appointments and only call on the doctor in the case that my daughter experienced any discomfort or pain in her arm. As it turned out, her arm healed perfectly without any more x-rays.

I was puzzled by this level of doctor involvement for a little bit until I realized that for every time we had to come in and take a meaningless x-ray, the doctor could bill our insurance company to the tune of a couple of thousand dollars while doing literally no work what so ever. This is questionable in itself, and in my opinion a leading reason why health care in the USA is twice as expensive as anywhere else, but the real message I learned from this is that health care in the US is completely profit driven.

Once I connected these dots I also realized why I could never see a doctor without walking out with at least two prescriptions for something. There are a lot more money to be had from putting people on various medications than to tell them to get more sleep or eat more kale. After having seen this connection clearly in practice, I started noticing how this profit maximizing approach to health is enforced everywhere.

For example, do you ever have heartburn? Left in the hands of the medical industry the way to treat heartburn is to take a pill every day. The pill does nothing to stop the cause of heartburn, it just masks the symptoms. In reality the easiest and cheapest way to treat heartburn is to stop eating things that give you heartburn. This also happens to be the healthiest option, but alas it's also the option that generates no profit for anybody. To the medical industry it's a lot better to have many people taking medication regularly for as many ailments as possible. This is why you can never trust your doctor to provide you the easiest and healthiest treatment option. The moment I realized this was the moment I started looking into how I can take back control of my own health.

Luckily, there is a wealth of information available today that lets you take better control of your own health. There are web pages dedicated to everything from traditional diagnosis to every possible types of treatment. You no longer have to accept the limited view that one practitioner will provide you with, the tools are out there for anyone to make educated decisions about their health. There's a whole world of alternatives to traditional medicine that could help people save money and cut down on the amount of medication they tax their bodies with. There are a myriad of different diets, exercises and mental disciplines that could promote better health. The challenge is to sift through and find the path that fits your life and your body, but that is the price to pay for taking responsibility for yourself: You have to make the decisions.

  1. Amen. I learned this the hard way. We need to get back to common sense and stop taking every med advertised. In fact, prescription meds shouldn't be advertised. It's making taking drugs the norm.

  1. I learned a similar lesson after treatment for a shoulder dislocation while skiing.

    After the emergency room I was sent for CAT scan, which was charged to insurance.

    It only dawned on me when I returned home that the scan was unnecessary.

    The Swiss medics are similarly inclined.

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