Trust, But Verify…

I understand and appreciate the notion that we should not treat doctors as demigods.  They are, after all, just human beings – well-educated and trained human beings in medical science, but human beings nonetheless.  Human beings make mistakes; hence, sometimes doctors make mistakes.  That is the premise behind second opinions. 

I am not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on T.V.  – I am merely an average citizen when it comes to medical knowledge.  When I have some medical issue to deal with I do what I think an increasing number of folks do these days – I research it on the internet.  I want to be as informed as I can be about the condition so that I can make the best decision. Albeit, it isn’t always an easy feat to do such research.  One has to know what sources are credible and one often has to sort through an extraordinary amount of information to get to those credible sources.

I not sure whether being a medical doctor has become easier or more difficult based on the availability of information on the internet.  One would think an informed patient is a good one, but I likewise imagine a mis-informed patient is a bit of a challenge.  There are things that take on a life of their own on the internet and bad information can be hard to get rid of.

I was reminded of this challenge when I read a recent article on pox parties in The Forum.  The article addressed parents who purposefully expose their children to chicken pox to avoid chicken pox vaccinations. Of course, the article noted that the CDC recommends the two dose chicken pox vaccine and quoted a physician who reiterated the message that naturally contracting the disease still can carry some significant risk (forget about the misery it causes and the money expended on calamine lotion).

As I said at the outset, I do understand and appreciate the fact that some folks are not willing just to take at face value the word of doctors without verifying the information; however, having followed closely the vaccination dialogue as it pertains to autism, I cringe when folks start pointing to half-baked studies or unsupported theories to justify moving away from childhood vaccines.  It isn’t that I trust blindly that vaccinations are a lesser threat given than not – it is that I trust, but verify. 

There is no solid and consistent body of research that shows that there is greater risk in receiving the vaccine than not.   And while I would be the first to agree that very powerful drug companies are behind some of these vaccinations and are invested in maintaining their ridiculous profit margins regardless of the potential cost, I cannot lean toward unsupported theories.  It isn’t as if the chicken pox vaccine just arrived on the scene yesterday.  I can understand parents reticence to try a brand new vaccine or medication that doesn’t have years of success and research behind it.  What I don’t get is how a small percentage of voices that have either been discredited or wholly unsupported by follow-up research have been able to affect so many parents’ decisions regarding the health and well-being of their children (and I note that the crux of my angst lies in the autism debate regarding vaccinations).

Perhaps this is an affliction I can attribute to the Ph.D. in me – show me the research if you want to convince me that a vaccine or medicine is having an unsuspected or untoward effect.   Not just one study completed by one obscure researcher with a small population – many studies, completed by many researchers…researchers not funded by companies or individuals with biases. 

We must be (as patients) our own best advocates, and as parents we must be our child’s best advocate.  It is up to us to verify that we are making the best choices for them given all the information at our disposal.  Information is power, but bad information is downright dangerous.  Be careful the sources you trust and always verify…medical care and key decisions regarding disease exposure and protection are not the types of things to trust to opinions gleaned from random internet message boards.  Read the credible research from the medical journals…ask your doctor and a second or third doctor…visit credible sites such as the Mayo Clinic’s site or Web MD…use information from the scientific community to evaluate science.  There will always be folks who have random theories about medical issues based on their personal experiences or casual observations – note that those random theories can be tested by researchers and should be tested before you rely on them.  All I am saying is – trust, but verify. 

Day eight hundred and eighty-seven of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

1 Response

  1. In my opinion this goes way beyond personal freedom and parents’ rights to determine what’s best for their child. This would be an instance when their exercising their freedom puts my children at significant risk. Not to mention theirs.

    Nurturing a group of kids to develop diseases carries significant risk of developing new strains that will be resistant to current vaccines or medications. Exercising their freedom could potentially harm untold numbers.

    This seems to fall along the lines of the argument that it infringes on my rights to make my kids and I wear seatbelts ’cause I read somewhere someone got trapped in their car and died.

    Those articles never go on to mention how many people would have died had everyone exercised their right to not wear seatbelts.

    It’s curious how a few people balk at their ‘rights’ being infringed upon and all the harm that causes them, all the while ignoring the fact they have no problem with the idea that exercising their ‘rights’ could potentially harm thousands.

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