The real nanny state. October 3, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: doctors, health care, hypochondriacs, nanny state
“Ben! Get in here and look at this!”
Silence Dogood was fuming. “I just clicked on an article about five healthy spices—cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cardamom, and cloves—and after it listed their health benefits, it said not to eat them without checking first with your doctor! What are we supposed to do, call our doctor every time we want to sprinkle cinnamon on our hot chocolate or eat curry or put black pepper on our food?! Gaaahhhh!!!”
Silence and our friend Ben despise the nannyism that has overtaken the patient-doctor relationship. You’re not supposed to go for a walk or begin an exercise program, however modest, without first checking with your doctor. Every article and piece of advice (about health or almost anything else) ends with “Be sure to check with your doctor first.” I’m waiting to see “Please do not breathe without checking with your doctor first.”
This is different from the bad old days when doctors were infallible gods and patients were humble worshippers who never questioned their doctor’s advice no matter how misguided it was or incompetent he was. The difference, though, is not that we can now inform ourselves about health matters, and from reputable sources like The Mayo Clinic, WebMD, The Lancet, and The New England Journal of Medicine, so that we can make informed decisions and have informed discussions with our doctors.
Instead, the difference is that, in the past, it wouldn’t have occurred to either doctor or patient that it was a doctor’s role to oversee every least detail of a patient’s private life. The doctor’s role was that of healing; the patient’s, of living. I cannot imagine a patient coming into the doctor’s office and asking, “Doctor, I’m having a bridge party this weekend and am baking a cake. Is it all right if I sprinkle some cinnamon on the icing?”
Empowerment is informing yourself about how to maintain your health and restore it if something goes wrong, and doing enough research to see what is proven to work, what shows promise (and in what form), what seems to neither help nor harm despite claims, and what might actually be harmful. Maturity is understanding that if one tablet, capsule, or cup is good, ten isn’t better. Insanity is turning responsibility for your entire life, to the minutest detail, over to your doctor.
Doctors are already overworked and in increasingly short supply. They don’t have time to tell a nation of infantile hypochondriacs how to tie their shoes when they could be treating disease and saving lives. Let’s please send this nanny on permanent vacation and rediscover the virtues of common sense and personal responsibility.