Why I Distrust Doctors

In the post Hunting Headaches Take 3, I wrote this:

I know we live in a fear mongering climate, but I do not consider my headaches to be an emergency situation. I’ve had them for many years and all other aspects of my health are stellar. So, I’m not surrendering to medical professionals. At the point where I’ve exhausted all avenues, I will. I’m not there yet.

I have 3 motivations for figuring out and solving my headaches.

  1. Self-empowerment. I have figured out and solved many health riddles in the past 3 years. I’m a decent researcher and I have a fair amount of confidence that I’ll figure this one out as well. It is more challenging, but every month that goes by I collect more data and learn more about myself. There is no failure, only feedback.
  2. Financial. Because I am in stellar health, it made more financial sense to choose the health insurance plan that provided 100% coverage above $10,000 and basically nothing under that threshold. My prior insurance had less coverage above $10,000 but had some coverage underneath. I took the bet that whatever sends me to the hospital will be damn serious and damn expensive. You won’t see me in Urgent Care cause I have a runny nose.
  3. Low Faith in Doctors. My track record with doctors hasn’t been good. For the most part, they don’t impress me. I’ve never sat across from a physician that appeared to be in better health than me. They push too many pills, surgeries, and physical therapy. Anything to trigger another billable action.

Lego Doctor

Photo by larique

Things I Have Visited The Doctor For Since Adulthood

Rosacea – Both in Florida and here in Seattle, I saw dermatologists to address my rosacea. Both prescribed a massive battery of pills and creams. They were able to manage the problem, but it was expensive and it never addressed the root cause. They attacked the symptoms.

In the post Be Your Own Dermatologist, I describe how I cured my rosacea by eliminating wheat from my diet. Never once did either dermatologist mention the possibility that I might have a food intolerance. I know now that inflamed skin can be a sign of internal problems. Today if I ever get a blemish, I can reflect upon what in my diet changed that week and perform an elimination test to isolate the cause. No doctor needed.

Back Pain – When it comes to back pain, doctors are clueless. I got X-Rayed and scripts for painkillers. Even discussions of surgery, despite the fact I was clearly healthy. The chiropractor was even worse. I spent a year getting my back popped and neck snapped. My health insurance paid for most of it. As soon as the health insurance ran out, my chiropractor deemed me healed. It feels good to get an adjustment, but the benefits are short-term and did nothing to address the root causes of my back pain. Only when I took control personally was I able to figure out the cause of my back pain. No surgery, pills, or therapy was required.

Ring Finger Injury – Back when I had a home gym, I thought it would be cool to do rope pull-ups. It was fine for a while. Then I tore something in my left ring finger. I wasted months getting X-Rays, pills, PT sessions and on my very last visit, they took out a needle and gave me a cortisol shot. The shot did it. By the next morning, I was 100% healed. I was angry that they didn’t even suggest this before.

Wrist Surgery – I strained something in my right wrist and didn’t want to heal. After a convincing presentation, I was talked into wrist surgery to repair the tendon. I was told I’d be 100% healed in 2-3 months. I was told the anesthesia would be most likely be local. The anesthesia ended up being general and it would 6 months before I could do a single open hand girls push-up. It would be a year before I was 100% better.

And here is the kicker, once they got the wrist open, they discovered there was no tendon damage, but found some benign cyst and removed it. They mentioned that the cyst would not have warranted surgery, but since they were in there they removed it. I will never know what was really wrong with my wrist and if the surgery helped it or delayed my recovery from something that would have healed on its own.

Intestinal Problems – In 2009, I went two weeks with intestinal issues, so I saw a doctor. I ended up paying $600 in tests that were not covered by insurance. Later I learned one of the tests required me to fast to get an accurate reading, but that was never communicated by the doctor. They were too busy ringing the register.

They found nothing wrong with me, but gave me an expensive prescription to deal with the pain should it surface again. Thankfully an ethical pharmacist was on staff when I went to fill my script. He showed me an over-the-counter version of the same medicine that was 90% cheaper. Despite all the time and money I spent chasing down my gut issues, I still do not know what happened to me. Maybe I healed my gut with fermented food?

You Are Your Own Best Doctor

The weekly podcast Latest In Paleo has a saying that I love. It is that human beings are not broken by default. Amen! Daytime TV and medical drama shows like House promote fear of things we can’t see and that are out of our control. But we can take some control of our health outcomes. I have and I will continue to. If I need emergency treatment or I can’t figure something out, I will absolutely seek medical attention. But for the most part, I distrust doctors (dentists too). Now you know why.


Add yours

  1. You know that I couldn’t agree with you more, MAS. Why do so many people put doctors on a pedestal? Doctors are barely above real estate agents in my internal mental hierarchy. In spite of the hypocratic oath doctors act in their own best interests. Just like ANY other human. They are subject to biases, bad science, financial motivations (pharma reps), etc. I’m not saying they’re evil at all but they are a powerful force in the life of any individual seeking treatment. Let’s not cede more power to them than necessary.

  2. I share your sentiment regarding healthcare in general. It is best utilized in emergencies. I have become jaded in many ways regarding this over the years. The straw that broke the camels backs was when a dentist, a neighbor of my parents and supposed friend of theirs, raked me over the coals. I was unemployed at the time and he knew it. He recommended a $450 mouthpiece to prevent wear when I ground my teeth at night. I naively bought it with cash. I never questioned doctors then. I then discovered a year later I could by a similar device at Walmart for $30. Shame on me for being stupid.

  3. You touched a nerve for me: $600 in rx copays over 3 months to solve coughing (yes, the coughing really was that severe). Doctor baffled, I finally went online and discovered the cause which was (wait for it) a side effect from the blood pressure medicine the same doctor was prescribing for me.

  4. @marcia

    my mother in law had a nagging cough for years for the same reason.

  5. Have you read Dr. McGuff’s latest blog post over on the “Body By Science”? It’ll be right up your alley. His bottom line – as an e.r. doc, mind you – do all you can to stay out of the “belly of the beast” that is modern medicine.

    If I ever suffer serious trauma or a serious, life threatening illness I am sure I will explore what doctors and hospitals can do, but for anything less severe a visit to the doctor is a non-starter for me.

    FWIW I think your approach on insurance is spot on. Great advice.

  6. You should get a kick out of this – maybe even some ideas?


  7. You are industrious and honest, my friend. With a bit of fortune, you will see this through too.

    I have also generally received poor treatment from doctors, both as professionals and as human beings. This is not to say I had not met good, even excellent, doctors. These have simply been exceptions.

    But that is the point, really. When I think about any kind of professional, the good ones (specially the excellent ones) are few and far between. Why do we expect doctors to be any different? There is a good reason for this, imo.

    Medicine is the absolute top when it comes to strict standards as well as quality and quantity of research. Engineering is a far, far second. All other fields of inquiry are comparatively so insignificant that they don’t even register.

    Still, there is a great deal (several orders of magnitude) more incompetence than wickedness in humanity,… which is astonishing when one acknowledges the extraordinarily large amount of wickedness we regularly unleash on one another.

  8. MAS, for your headaches,
    are you working under fluorescent lighting ?
    Are you working close to EMF emitting sources ?

    I had good success, switching of the lights and WiFi at my office and replacing them with natural light imitating LED lamp and ethernet wires.

  9. @Ahrand – No fluorescent lighting. Not sure about EMF, but that is the world we live in.

    @All – Thanks for the great comments. Soon I will be posting Hunting Headaches – Take 4. I have some new ideas.

  10. Great blog! I completely agree about not trusting doctors and trying to find your own cure first. IMO most things offered by docs are not needed and they are just pill pushers. If you can memorize some symptoms and spit them back out at a doctor they will give you a prescription.

    One thing though I thought I would mention about your finger and the cortisol shot. They cortisol shot should be considered a last resort for anything they would use it for(back pain, hip pain, finger strains, etc). The reason being is that the cortisol shot actually deteriorates the muscles it is injected into and it is really hard on your adrenals. Typically it is said that you should never have any more than 3-4 shots in your entire life because of the stress it puts on your body! Just like they say no more than 10 cat scans for fear of cancer…it should be used as a last resort.

  11. I have come to believe that most (yes, most) medical treatment decisions made by doctors are based upon the doctor’s financial interests; how to bill a patient is the extent of their intellectual interest in the patient. Sad.

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