“One Word Can Save Your Life: No!” This Newsweek cover made me wonder how a word could save lives. It’s all about tests…too many of them.
At first I thought the article was slamming medical doctors and medicine, but I found it to be rather balanced in that regard. Sometimes tests are needed, but, simply stated, less is more in the area of medicine.
Sharon Begley, the author, states that more health care can sometimes harm one’s health, while less health care can often lead to better health (an idea that runs counter to most patients’ belief that screenings and treatments are only beneficial).
Begley quotes Dr. Rita Redberg, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and editor of the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine, as saying, “There are many areas of medicine where not testing, not imaging, and not treating actually result in better health outcomes.” Redberg adheres to this idea in her own life and has chosen not to screen for certain diseases for which screenings are recommended by her profession.
Others in the medical field are also looking more closely at screening options. An article in the Huffington Post reported that medical societies made up of family physicians, cardiologists, and other specialists are telling America’s doctors not to be so quick to order expensive procedures like CT scans and x-rays.
Another article, in the New York Times, reports a shift in people’s receptivity to hearing all the pros and cons of treatment before making a decision. In this article, Dr. Barry says, “When patients are fully informed, they tend to be more conservative.”
This conservatism Barry speaks about may have helped spark a growing interest in alternative medicines in place of and along with the traditional treatments of western medicine.
According to a 2002 NIH study on alternative medicines, out of the nine alternative medicines studied, the most used was prayer at 43%. The Bible is full of accounts of healing and health restoration through the use of prayer and my experience has been that prayer does heal – and is a reliable medicine for health challenges.
Saying No to screenings is changing our approach to keeping the body healthy. Awareness of over-diagnoses and the increased use of alternative medicines are important factors to watch as the public (and elected and appointed officials) work to define the limits of the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care laws. These laws, as they were adopted, have the potential to create new mandates, which reach into every community and home.
One issue is whether each individual has the freedom to choose the type of health care he thinks is best for him, and that the insurance industry is able to provide. Insurance coverage for all choices, whether those choices involve traditional western medicine and/or alternative therapies like prayer, should be considered.
Say “Yes” to patient choice in the interest of health that is safe and meets our needs.
photo illustrated by Mykl Roventine.