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american medical care can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing


Overdiagnosis Overtreatment

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Mathew 7:17

“Politicians are more concerned with ‘issues’ than ‘principles,’ but talk as though the two nouns have the same meaning.”  Tom Clancy from Clear and Present Danger

“There are huge dangers here of turning all of us into patients… turning all of us into a sort of walking collection of predispositions to disease. There’s a lot of money to be made by telling healthy people that they’re sick.”  Dr. Ray Moynihan from the podcast being discussed today

Clear and Present Danger was the title of a 1989 book written by the late Tom Clancy, and made into a hit 1994 Harrison Ford movie of the same name (part of the Jack Ryan series, the latest of which is 2014’s Shadow Recruit).  The ‘danger’ in that movie was the drug cartels.  Hmmmmm. Seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same.  But there’s another current danger that most people are totally unaware of.  In fact, this danger is so covert that the average citizen feels it’s a benefit.  Allow me to explain.

Back in 2006, a group of physicians and researchers published the seminal study titled DEATH BY MEDICINE.  This review of the scientific peer-reviewed literature showed that medical care is and has been for quite some time the number one cause of death in the United States. 

And despite the cries from the treating physicians within the medical community that “early” diagnosis and subsequent “early” treatment typically lead to better outcomes (therefore insurances, both public and private should pay for them), the scientific portion of the medical community — the researchers — have been saying for decades that not only is this false, it’s completely backwards and upside down. 

The problem is so pervasive that a number of years ago a term was coined to describe what goes on when people are subjected to too much medical care; OVERDIAGNOSIS & OVERTREATMENT.  It is this phenomenon that reveals just how big an oxymoron “Wellness Care” really is when used in the standard medical context (HERE).  Enter Dr. Ray Moynihan.

Dr. Ray is a former award-winning investigative journalist-turned-health-researcher, who has been teaching about, lecturing about, and writing books about this topic for over two decades.  

His bio says, “Ray completed his PhD on Overdiagnosis at the Center for Research in Evidence-Based Practice at Bond University in Australia, where he is also a senior research fellow. Together with colleagues from around the globe he has been a member of the scientific program committee helping to organize Preventing Overdiagnosis scientific conferences.”  Some of his popular books include…….

  • Too Much Medicine? The Business of Health and its Risks for You
  • Selling Sickness: How Drug Companies are Turning Us All into Patients
  • Ten Questions You Must Ask Your Doctor
  • Sex, Lies and Pharmaceuticals: How Drug Companies Are Bankrolling The Next Big Medical Condition For Women

Health News Review is a website that everyone should be familiar with.  Why?  Started by  Gary Schwitzer in 2006, “The project has now grown to a team of about 50 people who grade daily health news reporting by major U.S. news organizations.  In addition, in 2015 the project began reviewing health care-related news releases by industry, medical journals, hospitals and academic medical centers, and others.” 

Needless to say, many of these reviews are nothing short of brutal, showing, as I’ve shown you many times, that Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) is frequently anything but evidence-based (HERE).  Today I’m giving you a few tasty morsels from Moynihan’s recent podcast on Health News Review titled The Clear and Present Danger of Too Much Health Care.

Dr. Moynihan started out my saying that his career is based on studying and educating people about the “mismatch between the public understanding of health and medicine and the reality of health and medicine,” describing the difference as a “huge gulf“.  Especially interesting considering that five years ago I described this difference as large enough to make the Grand Canyon look like a roadside ditch (HERE). 

He went on to characterize the medical marketing machine as a constant “roar” that encompasses not only industry, but academic medicine as well (“the academies, professional societies, and increasingly patient groups“). 

Listen to how he described this roar’s effect on medical practice.  “It overpromotes the benefits and under-promotes the harms.”  The end result is that almost everything John Q Public sees and believes about healthcare is “distorted” — thanks to an uncanny ability of industry to SPIN the research, and create PRESS RELEASES made to look like actual news.

Dr. M went on to discuss a meeting he had with global experts concerning the fact that far too many healthy people were being “labeled” (diagnosed), or in his estimation, “overdiagnosed” for the express purpose of making the practice of healthcare more profitable (see last quote at top of page).  He went on to describe the phenomenon of overdiagnosis and overtreatment as, “a real threat to human health“.  And just how is it that we continue to fall for this never-ending horse and pony show?  “We’re all somewhat hardwired to believe that it’s better to be safe than sorry — that more is better.” 

The interviewer went on the ask Dr. Moynihan what it took to convince the public of these dangers.  His answer?  “That’s the question?”  In other words, even though the message is getting out there from the research side of medicine; industry, along with a significant percentage of practicing physicians, continue to promote the same false slogans that you and I grew up with — things like “Early Diagnosis Promotes Wonderful Cures“.  He went on to discuss the harsh realities of numerous common tests and treatments, spending time specifically talking about the crazy radiation doses people get from CT SCANS.

After making the obligate disclaimer, he described the general thrust of the medical field as having the goal of, “turning everyone into a patient“.   In fact, he went on to describe the latest medical technology as always being “new and shiny“.   The claims made about it are likewise new and shiny.  It’s called marketing and for the most part, rarely holds up to rigorous scrutiny — especially when so many people must be “labeled” in order to pay for said equipment, along with the next round of shiny new equipment required to keep people’s interest (HERE). 

As someone who has been in the field for three decades, I can tell you that I’ve seen hundreds of these new-and-shinies come and go, rarely panning out or doing what’s claimed of them.  But just like clothing styles, give them a decade or two and you’ll see them recycled and coming around again — just like those ridiculous bell bottom jeans hidden in the bottom of your closet. 

If you are interested in having a good laugh, watch the first three minutes of Dr. Moynihan’s video.  However, if you want to see just how serious the subject that he brings to the table really is, be sure and watch the next 15 minutes.  See how what I refer to every day as THE MEDICAL MERRY-GO-ROUND is not only dog common, but is actually the end result of this way of thinking. 

If you are truly interested in getting off the medical merry go round, most of you could benefit from information found in THIS POST.  And if you find yourself regularly spending more time on our site than you intended, be sure to spread the wealth by liking, sharing or following on FACEBOOK.

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