I was on the phone with my good friend Johnathan. We hadn’t spoke in months and we were long overdue for a conversation. Jonathan and I have known each other since our first week in undergrad and we have grown through and experienced life together: school, jobs, love gained, and love lost. One of the reasons we are close is that we have the freedom to be completely honest with each other. With that said, we’ve gotten into many arguments and debates, and this last convo was another one of our long debates.
Johnathan is pre-med. He has a passion for service and medicine and has always wanted to be a doctor. I was telling him about a recent doctor visit I had where I felt as though my doctor didn’t really listen to me ,and was more interested in talking at me and having me go along with her plans instead of listening to the plans I had for myself, and us working together towards a solution. I felt like she was using her voice to silence mine and that made me feel disregarded as a patient.
I shared this story as a way to remind Johnathan to make sure that he listens to his patients when he becomes a doctor. Make sure that he places value on their input. He said that he would. We then start talking about doctors and the health industry. Johnathan believes in the power of science — in the knowledge of doctors. I believe in science as well and see the value of modern medicine. I also believe in holistic methods and living a healthy lifestyle. I believe that people have to be their own health advocate, gather their own information, and do what works best for them.
Johnathan began refuting the legitimacy of holistic medicine saying that one shouldn’t just “buy herbs from someone on the street”, and that it’s better to see a learned licensed doctor that could prescribe the best medicine. I told him that I agree that people should not just “buy herbs from someone on the street”. But just like there are knowledgeable doctors, there are knowledgeable herbalists and nutritionists that can also make recommendations, and that their recommendations can work just as well, if not, better.
Johnathan was becoming irritated that I proclaimed that eating certain foods and having a certain diet could serve as a preventive measure to a lot of the illnesses that people endure, information that a lot of doctors and pharmacists conceal from patients. Frustrated and defensive, Johnathan belts, “Well you tell a kid that is suffering from cancer that they can get healthy again by eating certain foods!!” I told him to calm down first of all, and that I’m not saying that modern medicine is wrong, or denying it’s progress, but what I do know is that what we put into our bodies has an effect on our health. And instead of talking to patients about this, many doctors push and promote drugs to their patients. A lot of times these drugs don’t alleviate the cause, but rather alleviate the symptoms. But while alleviating certain symptoms, they cause other maladies to form.
We’ve all seen these fear inducing drug commercials that talk about curing or managing an illness, but then they list the possible side effects of taking the drug: dizziness, nausea, bleeding, organ failure, depression, suicide, this list goes on and on. And it becomes crystal clear that taking the drug is not worth the risk of the side effects. Not to mention, it doesn’t take away the condition, it only provides temporary relief.
Johnathan then says that the drugs have been tested and approved to be on the market. But I mentioned how these drug commercials are then followed by other commercials where lawyers come on the screen and proclaim that a certain drug that was recently promoted, in fact, has caused some other physical ailment, and if you have developed this ailment then you can receive compensation. So, clearly many of these drugs haven’t even been accurately tested before being given to patients, which means they are lying to consumers.
I told Johnathon that at the end of the day, are there great, honest doctors out there who truly care for their patients? Yes. Is there modern medicine that has been greatly beneficial to society? Of course. But the health/drug industry is and has always been a money making industry – the biggest money making industry. The focus is more on profit, and less about really healing people, but rather getting them dependent on a drug. The industry promotes panic in their consumers which drives them to purchase drugs that could potentially leave them in a worse state than they were before.
I know what it’s like to be a nervous, scared patient buying drugs in hopes of a cure. I remember being given medicine and the nurse told me, “The drug will take away the symptoms, but it will not get to the root of the issue, go to this website and read this article.” I am forever grateful to that nurse who was bold enough and cared enough to tell me the truth. Up until that point no one had shared this information with me. I remember reading the article and doing other research, and discovered how changing what I put in my body had a dramatic effect on my condition. My grandmother’s words rang strong and true for me at that moment, she would always say, “Don’t you know they just PRACTICIN?!” It struck a nerve. I had to take my health into my own hands, educate myself, and take the control back. I had to use and trust my own discernment.
I told Johnathan that his role as a doctor is to provide valuable information on his patients condition and then provide them with options. It is the patient who has to decide what route they want to take, and whatever decision they choose has to be respected. That was the whole point of our original conversation that spiraled out of control. Johnathan has a very strong position on most things and if people disagree with him, he will argue with them as to why they are wrong and he is right. As a doctor you can not do this. Your job is not to be combative, your job is to be of service. I told him to come down off of his pedestal of doctoral credentials and to check his ego and condescending tone. The best doctors are the most compassionate, the most honest, have good interpersonal communication skills, and are the most genuine in their goal to help their patients. They know how to engage in dialogue, and don’t try to take command.
I hope that my dear friend does not become tainted like many other doctors and forget his purpose. I hope he remembers that he does not get the final say. I hope he remembers that he is a public servant…he is not God.