BY MICHAEL KIRSCH
We’ve all heard the adage, leave it to the professionals. It’s typically used when an individual has wandered out of his lane. How many folks go beyond their knowledge and skills with home projects, for example, who must then hire a real professional to mop up the mistakes? Luckily for me, the only tools that I – a gastroenterologist – know how to use are a colonoscope and an endoscope, so there’s no chance that I will be tempted to perform any plumbing or electrical tasks at home.
Although patients are not medical professionals, they routinely bring me results of their own medical research which suggest possible diagnoses and treatments. Often, these are patients whom I am meeting for the first time. I applaud patients who strive to be informed participants in their care. Indeed, there have been instances when a patient has brought me a valuable suggestion that I had not considered. But these are uncommon occurrences. A few computer clicks by a patient is not equivalent to the judgment and experience of a seasoned medical professional. It’s unlikely, for example, that I will agree that a patient’s elevated temperature is caused by malaria, despite this appearing on a patient’s internet search on the causes of fever.
However, even when I feel that a patient’s research results have no medical merit, the ensuing conversation is always valuable for both of us. I am in the room and can address the issue directly in real-time. I am the patient’s guardrail to protect him from careening off the road. I can explain right then the importance of being guided whenever possible by sound medical evidence. So, while I truly welcome the dialogue and recommendations from patients, I think that the maxim leave it to the professionals applies. Isn’t this why patients come to see us?
There’s a new player on the scene masquerading as medical professionals dispensing medical advice to the public. And in this case, there are no effective protective guardrails protecting patients as we doctors routinely do. I am not referring to middle of the night telemarketers or companies promising that probiotics are the panacea of our time.
As absurd as this sounds, politicians are now authorizing medical treatment for various diseases and conditions. Politicians? Could this be true?Continue reading…