Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Don't let your doctor 'over-prescribe' harmful drugs for you

Image: PharmGP10

You're at home doing nothing much and all of a sudden, you're struck by a terrible abdominal pain. It feels like nothing you've ever experienced before – sharp, deep and relentless.

Something could be awfully wrong, so you decide to go to the hospital.

It may be something bad; surgery might be necessary; or they could give you a shot and you could go back home in a couple of hours. Then doubt creeps in. You've seen tens of cases of medical malpractice: What if they don't find it? What if they treat you without being certain of your condition? What if ...?

The anxiety and fear for your life become overwhelming. The pain becomes a background to a nightmare you can't stop. Then again, they're doctors. They train for this kind of stuff for years. It's their job. They must know what they're doing.

The people we trust are still people

Doctors undergo a serious amount of training before they are given permission to practice. Whether it's a general practitioner, surgeon or anesthesiologist, these people live and breathe medicine. Nonetheless, they are still human, which means that they can be wrong.

In order to prevent this from happening, doctors follow procedures, order tests and even double-check their findings with colleagues or superiors. But sometimes, the pressure is too much to handle.

When faced with too little time, the need to provide patients with answers, or the most common illness displaying the same symptoms, they don't get all diagnoses right. You can't always ask for another opinion. You're a doctor and you have a reputation to uphold.

Doctors can be wrong and, as it turns out, their mistakes are very costly. The difference is that when you're a doctor, one mistake can be the difference between life and death. Unlike lawsuits, a lost life cannot be compensated for by any sum of money. There are medical malpractices everywhere in the world.

Practicing the fear of malpractice

These days, patients now actively seek some form of justice when their doctors misdiagnose or mistreat them. It's only fair to ask for an explanation for what you or your family had to suffer. If it was a small mishap or an incredibly uncommon affliction that is almost untraceable, the circumstances are reduced. Doctors are aware of this and, consequently, they sometimes go out of their way to ensure a patient's well-being.

Over-treating is not necessarily a good thing. In the case mentioned above, you wouldn't want surgery if there was an alternative treatment that would have the same outcome. For instance, if you have slightly increased blood pressure, a few weeks of mild physical activity and a healthy diet are likely to take care of it. Despite the fact that a prescription medication is quite convenient, the side effects can make you feel worse than before. Many US doctors have admitted to indulging their patients with over-treatment. So you can imagine what doctors in other less developed countries are doing.

Why this behavior is tolerated

Over-treating and over-diagnosing are also a way to maintain the flow of finances in the system. If you have an incredible amount of resources for cancer treatment, why not put them to good use? The real issue emerges when the patient's disease or cancer is not 100 percent certain. In those situations, the prescription can actually trigger the illness. In the case of antibiotics, a vicious circle is created whereby their excessive use leads to immunization. The patient effectively becomes immune to medicine from indulging in it.

Be mindful next time you're at an appointment and are asked to undergo a procedure or treatment. Ask whether you really need it or if there are any other options. When you're not arriving by ambulance, a few minutes of conversation won't hurt anybody.

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