Thursday, September 20, 2007

When you hear hoofbeats look for horses not zebras

All medical students have this cliche repeated over and over (I suppose doctors in Africa are told the opposite). I think it is so significant that every form of mental illness shares some form of sleep problem but it is universally dismissed as irrelevant and just a symptom. Injuring brains and f*&cking up the metabolism of people that have a sleep disorder is contrary to the other cliche that medical students are taught - first, do no harm. Now the brain damaging ECT is making a "stunning" comeback with the implanting of devices in brains.

If the current crop of researchers were in charge of fixing scurvy or pellegra, they would not even consider diet but would search for some life-long prescription that would generate some REAL MONEY. How many times have you heard the phase "the modern miracle of medicine"? In reality vaccination (discovered long ago) and improved sanitation are the most instrumental in prolonging life and ending diseases, so you should probably respect your plumber's opinion as much as your doctor's.

Organ transplant and conjoined twin separation gets lots of publicity, but in general modern medicine can not fix most problems beyond resetting bones and hiding symptoms with drugs. Sure, the incidence of breast cancer has dropped - but that happened because people QUIT taking their medicine (premarin and such). Liver and kidney failure because of prescription drugs is a real problem that won't get a telethon like all the other diseases that are so illusive to modern medicine.

All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the right one - Occam's razor or the hoofbeats in other words.

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