Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Where do you get your medical information?

Way back in the dark ages, there was no Internet, and doctors didn't advertise. Therefore, your primary source of information was your family doctor. He (and it was usually always a "he") was considered to be the knowledgeable and reliable source for medical information.

A conversation such as this would never have occurred in 1912:

So what is happening with that lump on your head?

I saw Dr. Smith about it. He says not to worry.

So you're not worried then?

Well, I'm not sure. I found a medical book in the back shelves of the library that indicated that it could be a tumor.

Oh dear.

And when I was walking down the street, I saw a guy yelling on the sidewalk that lumps can be caused by excessive exposure to smoke and oil.

Oh dear.

And when I attended a political meeting, someone revealed that President Taft is intentionally poisoning all Americans.

Oh dear...

Nowadays, of course, we get information from everywhere. Doctors advertise, and even if they don't, your health insurance provider gives you big lists of doctors on your plan so that you can somehow choose one of them. And the Internet provides all sorts of medical information, including advice from learned medical sources such as autism expert Jenny McCarthy and leech therapy expert Demi Moore. (And no, Ashton Kutcher was not the leech in question.)

Recently I shared an old example of online medical information - a December 1982 Usenet post written by Dr. Jack Buchanan, in which he discussed a report that he had read on a strange new illness called AIDS. Buchanan quoted from a publication issued by the Centers for Disease Control, noting that the CDC was (at the time) most famous for identifying Legionnaires Disease.

Now I didn't happen to see that net.singles post when it appeared, but I assume that if I had seen it, it would have seemed convincing to me.

But what if Buchanan had misquoted the CDC information?

Or what if the CDC had never issued such a report? What if someone issued a report and said that the CDC issued it?

What if Buchanan made up the report?

What if Buchanan was not a real doctor?

What if Buchanan had never even been to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill?

Hey, it could happen, as this 1987 story showed.

Meredith Vieira, reporting on fraudulent AIDS therapies on CBS-TV's "West 57th" last April 27, interviewed a man who called himself Dr. Sebi. "Dr. Sebi," said Vieira, "isn't a doctor. He's an herbalist, a man from Honduras who brought his bag of miracles to Brooklyn. His cure for AIDS starts at $500. It's the same regimen of diet and herbs he prescribes for everything." In an earlier television interview with Washington, D.C.'s "Eyewitness News" reporter Ellen Kingsley, Dr. Sebi stated, "We have always charged $250 for the first consultation to get the herbal compounds. On the AIDS, we increase it to $500, because of the psychological reason that goes along with the price. When someone invests enough money, they're going to go along with the program." Sebi has since been arrested for practicing medicine without a license.

Well, it's a relief to know that this scam was shut down. Uh, wait a minute:

Welcome to the website of Dr. Sebi

The World Renowned healer has cured several ailments with his Electric Cell Food. Reversing illnesses such as: Cancer, Herpes, H.I.V., Diabetes, Aids...
blog comments powered by Disqus