The Big Lie Doctors Tell
Doctors, hospitals and drug
companies constantly claim that the modern medical profession has, during the
last century or so, dramatically improved life expectation.
superficially the statistics seem to support this claim.
And it is
undeniable that there are more 70, 80 and 90 year olds around now than there
were a century ago.
The idea that doctors have pretty well conquered
illness and are helping us defy death itself is a warm, comforting one.
But it's a fraud. A great big lie worthy of the most devious politician.
The truth is quite different.
The truth is that a century or so
ago many newborn babies never saw their first birthday. They were killed,
largely, by infectious diseases. Cholera, smallpox and typhoid killed millions.
The big change that has taken place has involved not doctors but better
sewage facilities, cleaner water supplies, more spacious homes, more food and
better built towns and cities. All these things have helped slash infant
And so people seem to be living longer.
people out of 100 all die just after birth and the other 50 live to be
90-years-old then the average life expectancy is just over 45 years.
if 50 people out of a hundred live to be just 50-years-old and the other 50
reach 90 then the average life expectancy is 70 years.
Today, there are
more old people around because less are dying as infants. And, of course, as the
population grows so the number of old people increases.
evidence shows not that doctors and drug companies are saving a vast number of
lives but that the modern medical profession has become a danger.
of these people do you think poses the greatest threat to your life: a burglar,
a mugger, a drunken driver, a drug-crazed lunatic or a temporarily insane
relative running amok with a sharp knife?
It's none of them.
person most likely to kill you is your doctor.
That may seem a scary
thought. But it's true.
Hidden away in the world's medical journals
there is now a staggering amount of evidence to show that modern western
doctors, equipped with fancy drugs, exotic forms of surgery and impressive
sounding radiotherapy techniques, are ranked alongside cancer, heart disease and
stroke as major killers.
Four out of ten patients who are given drugs
suffer serious and sometimes potentially lethal side effects. If the drug you're
prescribed is going to save your life that's probably an acceptable risk. But
how many patients who are merely suffering from something annoying or
uncomfortable would willingly take a drug if they knew it might kill them? There
are hugely profitable drugs on the market which have never saved any lives but
which have killed or made ill countless thousands of people.
One in six
patients in hospital in Britain is there only because he has been made ill by
doctors. Most are suffering from unpleasant or downright dangerous drug side
effects. In America, bad reactions to legal drugs kill far more people annually
than all illegal drug use combined.
You won't hear any of this from most
doctors, of course.
Doctors are notoriously reluctant to admit that the
treatments they recommend can do harm. There are several reasons for this.
First, they often don't know how dangerous drugs and other treatments
can be. In just about every Westernised country in the world doctors receive
most of their post graduate education through meetings and journals which are
sponsored by drug companies. And drug companies don't spend too much of their
time warning doctors about drug side effects. Global drug companies don't exist
to find cures or help people: they exist solely to make money.
doctors are frightened of being sued.
Third, there are nearly half a
million clinical research papers published every week. No doctor on the planet
can read them all - or even have the faintest idea what warnings they might
give. Useful reports are lost among the irrelevant, commercially inspired dross.
Finally, the natural human unwillingness to admit responsibility is
exceptionally well developed among doctors who often think of themselves as
having god-like qualities. Admitting to mistakes reminds doctors that they are
human and fallible.
Happily, there are conclusions to be drawn. And
advice I can give.
First, here's my list of tips for patients taking
1. Always follow any specific instructions that you
have been given by your doctor. Read the label on your bottle of pills and take
notice of what it says! If a drug company says that the drug should be taken
before meals, during meals or after meals then that's what they mean.
When you're not using them, drugs should be stored in a locked cupboard out of
reach of children in a room where the temperature will be fairly stable. The
bathroom is probably the worst room in the house for storing medicines.
3. Never take drugs prescribed for someone else. Return all unused
supplies of drugs to your chemist.
4. It is wise to assume that all
prescribed drugs can cause drowsiness. You shouldn't drive or operate machinery
after taking a drug until you are sure that you are safe.
5. Drugs don't
mix well with alcohol. If you want to drink while taking drugs ask your doctor
whether it's safe to do so.
6. Don't take non-prescribed medicines while
taking prescribed drugs.
7. Don't use alternative medicines either. They
may not mix well.
8. Don't stop taking drugs suddenly if you have been
advised to take a full course. Ring your doctor for advice if you need to stop.
Some drugs have to be stopped gradually rather than abruptly.
side effects to your doctor - and ask him to report the side effects to the
authorities. The vast majority of doctors never bother to report side effects -
with the result that potentially hazardous drugs remain on the market for far
longer than they should.
10. If you see a new doctor while taking a drug
make sure he knows what you are taking - particularly if he intends to prescribe
additional treatment for you. Many drugs do not mix well together and may,
indeed, react together in a dangerous way. And, finally, here's my general
advice for patients who are prescribed drugs by a doctor.
First, be wary
about taking drugs (or, indeed, any form of treatment) that you don't need. If a
doctor has his pen poised over his prescription pad ask him what will happen if
you don't take the drug. Ask him about the risks. And ask him if he'd take the
drug if he were suffering from your symptoms. You'll be surprised how often
doctors will admit that they'd leave nature to do the healing.
if given a choice between an old treatment and a new treatment, I'd always
choose the old treatment. Drug side effects usually only appear with time -
after thousands of patients have taken the drug. A drug that has been around for
years is unlikely to turn out to be a major killer. The longer a drug has been
around the more doctors will know about it. In medicine the word `new' when used
to describe a drug means two things: it is expensive and no one yet knows
whether it will cure you or kill you.
Third, if you take a drug that is
new to you don't do it when you are alone. Anaphylactic shock reactions are
commoner than most people imagine - and becoming commoner. There are around
30,000 such reactions every year in the UK. If there is someone with you they
can call a doctor and an ambulance.
Fourth, never ever trust a doctor
who tells you that the drug he is prescribing is free of all side effects. I
will cycle on the moon when a drug is created which produces no side effects. If
your doctor tells you this leave his consulting room as quickly as you can. And
never go back.
Fifth, if you take three drugs and two of them are for
side effects caused by the first drug then you are, in my view, probably being
badly treated. Many doctors regard side effects as merely an excuse for reaching
for the prescription pad. It doesn't occur to them to try another drug.
Sixth, don't just ignore it if you develop a rash, indigestion,
tinnitus, a headache or some other possible side effect: report it to your
doctor straight away. Don't stop medication without asking his or her advice
first. Some side effects are mild and if the drug is working and helping to
control or defeat a serious or life threatening condition then the side effects
may be of little consequence. But other side effects may kill. Many of the
thousands who die each year could still be alive if they had taken action
earlier when side effects started.
Seventh, be on the look out for
symptoms of problems caused by a treatment. I have over the years created a
number of straightforward, common sense laws of medicine. Coleman's First Law Of
Medicine is one of the most important: `If you are receiving treatment for an
existing disease and you develop new symptoms then, until proved otherwise, you
should assume that the new symptoms are caused by the treatment you are
Copyright Vernon Coleman 2011
Vernon Coleman's book
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