What Doctors Don’t Tell You

There’s a new magazine in the shops this week. It’s called What Doctors Don’t Tell You and I’m reasonably sure that no-one who reads this blog would be at all interested in reading it. If you think that you might be then try looking at the sample pages on their subscription site.

It’s all complete nonsense, of course. And many of the usual suspects are already hard at work debunking it. Which has led to a predictable reaction from the magazine’s editor. I hope she remembers what happened to the last people who tried to sue Simon Singh for libel.

As always with woo-mongers there’s a fatal flaw in their argument. Their argument, paraphrased, goes something like this:

People get bad service from medical professionals, therefore patients should turn to alternative treatments instead.

There are, of course, two elements to that statement. No-one would deny that the first half is accurate. Of course there are problems with the National Health Service. Some doctors don’t keep as up to date as they should with current research, big pharmaceutical companies have too much power, the government is trying to destroy it. No-one is going to deny these problems exist. I haven’t read it yet, but I believe that at least one of these issues is the subject of Ben Goldacre’s new book.

But those problems don’t lead inevitably to the conclusion that the woo-mongers draw. Just because there are problems with the NHS, that doesn’t mean that you should abandon it and put your health in the hands of people peddling unscientific nonsense. I don’t understand how anyone can reach that conclusion from our initial premise.

No, surely the only sane reaction to our initial promise is not to run to the arms of the woo-mongers, but to see what we can do to fix those problems. I have no easy answers. It’s not the kind of issue that can be solved overnight. But it’s never going to solved if we all stop using the NHS and replace it with magic water and prayer meetings.

I’m torn on the best action to take. Generally I think that we should all do what we can to stop people reading this magazine. I’ve emailed the relevant people at WH Smith, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose and a couple of times, when I’ve seen the magazine on sale, I’ve hidden it behind copies of Practical Parenting. But at other times I think that we should just let the gullible idiots read this stuff and use whatever treatments they like. Let Darwin take care of the problem.

The downside of that approach, of course, is that they’ll continue to use their magic potions most of the time, but will switch to using real medicine when it really matters. Or use both together and claim that it’s the eye of newt homeopathic remedy that cured them. So perhaps we should make them choose. Use whatever nonsense treatments you want, but don’t come crying to the NHS when you want real treatment.

Wow. That turned out quite a lot angrier that I thought it would be. Sorry about that.

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