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Archive for October, 2011

Every once in a while, I have to visit my  doctor for the specific purpose of receiving instructions that she knows and I know I fully intend to ignore.

I don’t like these visits because I don’t like doctor’s offices, medical centers, and hospitals. They make me nervous and nervous makes me nervous.

I prefer sipping my blood pressure medication at a place down the street called Acme Irish Pub and Schnitzel Grill.  

But I go to the doctor anyway because she has a way of describing what will happen to me if I don’t. Suffice to say, I do not wish to spend an eternity listening to political speeches or choirs singing hosannas. I therefore make the necessary sacrifices.

Some people, I’ve learned, look upon a visit to the doctor as a social event in which information is exchanged about the number and dosage of medications, the size of a tablet or capsule, and how large a pill must be before it makes them gag.

Others commiserate about side effects and how many additional medications they need to alleviate the side effects from the first pill. One guy was taking meds for heartburn but needed an extra pill to combat the side effects of the first one. And then another one for the side effects of the second one until he was swallowing seven pills every morning. I had a hunch his heartburn would disappear if he simply dropped grilled kimchee sandwiches and five pitchers of beer from his nightly menu at Acme’s.

I once got into an argument with my doctor for flat refusing to take a prescribed med. She finally became so agitated that she shouted, “Why won’t you take it?”

To which I replied calmly, “Because a major side effect of it is death.” And I was right. I had a complete list of the med’s side effects right there in black and white. “Number 3. Death may occur without warning if this medication is taken more than three months.”

To which she began to puff up and redden until I thought she was going to explode. After a moment, she calmed down and began to instruct me in statistics and in the methodology used in the testing of medications before they were released for use by the public. She wound up her lecture by saying something like, “If a side effect is number three it means the chances of it happening to any specific patient are so low as to be virtually nonexistent.”

To which I thought but did not say out loud, “Yeah, well, regardless of the odds, I have no intention of being that specific patient.”

I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not trivializing my doctor. She was my doctor for more than ten years before I left Hawaii. And I would become her patient again if I ever return there. We often had these exchanges because she was a great doctor and believed in patient-doctor dialogue.

Nor am I trivializing any illness or patient. There is no humor in illness and anyone who has been ill or who has lost a loved one from a terminal illness knows how serious all aspects of medicine are.  That’s why it’s important for patients to know their medications and the side effects of them.

Doctors are knowledgeable and we ought to respect their knowledge. But at the same time, we need to understand that there are aspects of the totality of the practice of medicine that they may not know about or may not wish to know.

The process of testing a new medication and seeking its approval from the Federal Drug Administration is rife with possibilities for sloppy testing, questionable relationships between drug manufacturers and the FDA and the practice of distributing samples of medications to doctors.

Drug manufacturers bombard the public with advertisements which usually include a “suggestion” that patients ask their doctor about the new med. Doctors then feel pressured from all sides to prescribe it.

Does this sound like the practice of medicine? To me it sounds like high-powered salesmanship, an electronic version of the old pitchman who promised the cure of every illness known to man if the audience would just try Doctor Higgins’ miraculous elixir. One dollar a bottle, folks, for this magic potion.

Often the most ill among us and our loved ones are the most susceptible to the modern hucksters. Fear drives them to try every new medication on the market, to endure endless tests and surgical procedures, to suffer needlessly because the medical-industrial complex isn’t selective about pushing their product.

When we do our own research on our loved one’s illness, we soon realize that medical professionals are often as much in the dark as we are. In a macabre way, it’s funny. The only ones not laughing are the sick and dying.

The big boys are chuckling all the way to their banks in Switzerland. Now, that is disgusting and sickening. It’s a hard pill to swallow.

I feel like gagging

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