Here are ten reasons why you should consider taking charge of your treatment:
1. You must make your health the focus of your time (at least until you get to the stage where you are managing your condition). No one else can invest the time it is going to take to properly consider, address and adopt the right protocols. Equally important is the possible misalignment of interests. Be cognizant of this. In this regard, note that oncology is the only branch of medicine that I am aware of where the doctor sells the drugs (in this case very expensive chemotherapy). In all other branches of medicine, the doctor writes the prescription, and a pharmacist fills that prescription.
2. Standard of care medicine is “reductionist” in its application. It is extremely limited, both by specialization and what is considered acceptable by the governing bodies (i.e., the FDA, the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical industry). As a specialist, a medical doctor is unqualified to give advice on any other areas of practice. If you speak to an oncologist, chemotherapy will be suggested. If you speak with a radiologist, radiology will be suggested. Another way to look at this is to see that, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This is not meant to be a criticism. There are many great medical specialists doing great things. However, their view of the options is necessarily myopic by the very nature of what it is they spend their time focusing on. In addition, standard of care is great for acute conditions. For chronic conditions, it does an amazing job of shutting down the symptomatic expression of diseases (but quite often leaves the underlying cause intact, at best).
3. Most treatments used in the standard of care are based upon “evidence” (hence the nomenclature “evidence based” medicine). What does that mean, and how does it work? It takes a considerable amount of money, not to mention time, to get to clinical trials, and even longer to get through the process and then (hopefully) get into a peer reviewed publication. If that is the determinant of what is accepted as “evidence” then I suggest you ask yourself a few rather obvious questions:
- Who stands to profit from the results of this test?
- What about the universe of integrative treatments that are never funded?
- Could lack of evidence be based less on efficacy and more because these treatments are not subject to patent protection (and profits)?
- Do some treatments never see the light of day because no one is willing to fund the study (or, if you happen to subscribe to conspiracy theories, do they threaten other extremely profitable treatment methods which are “evidence” based)?
Keep in mind that even the best and most current study is, to a great extent, nothing more than a series of hypotheses. We may have brilliant minds looking at complex subjects, applying the best-known methods to control against confounding factors in order to best discern cause and effect, but much of this “science” is more “theory” than “proof.”
4. We think that if something has been “discovered” and “defined” it is science. Nonsense. The process of putting labels on conditions does not mean that there is an understanding of those conditions. Moreover, “cause and effect” is more often than not simply assumed due to correlation. Correlation does not equal causation. A good example of this is serotonin. We know that low serotonin levels in the brain is correlated with depression. But do the low levels of serotonin cause depression? Perhaps depression has the effect of lowering the levels of serotonin in the brain. I am not qualified to say one way or the other, I am simply asking the question. What is the cause, and what is the effect, and does there have to be a linear progression from cause to effect, or can there simply be two concurrent effects?
5. If you can, you should consider seeing more than one doctor. Interview as many as you can. If you are lucky, you might find the right great doctor on the first try. Personally, I have three doctors: a urologist, an oncologist and an integrative (Anthroposophical) doctor and I interviewed twelve different doctors before settling on these three. I chose doctors I felt that I could work with; doctors who would not push me in a direction I was not comfortable going in. If your doctor is unwilling to work with you, find another doctor.
6. When it comes to treatments, you must be armed with all of the necessary information and you need to ask a lot of questions. Do your own research and, with the advice of your doctor, come to your own conclusions. Always keep in mind that your doctor is not allowed to venture outside of “standard of care” when giving medical advice. For example, if nutrition has been found to be a effective therapy to correct a condition, a medical doctor is not allowed to volunteer that information since nutrition is not part of standard of care. This does not, however, mean that you cannot ask for an opinion. An opinion, can be given, as such, but only if you ask.
7. Published clinical studies are, at best, of suspect usefulness. According to John P.A. Ioannidis, Stanford School of Medicine (in his essay Why Most Clinical Research is Not Useful, PLOS Medicine, June 21, 2016), of the approximately one million papers published, along with tens of thousands of systematic reviews “most of them are not useful.”
“Peer review” simply means that like-minded individuals (i.e., all of whom agree) are allowed to decide what is published and what is not. Having this type of peer review makes it less likely that an opposing perspective will see the light of day. This perpetuates dogma. In addition, the politics involved in raising funds to conduct research, and the ability to publish the results of that research in a “peer reviewed” journal, impacts what is studied and the results of those studies. Unfortunately, only those studies which comport to the prevailing viewpoint get funded, and published. Finally, there are many millions of clinical research papers out there, and it would be impossible for even the most astute practitioner to read and digest them all.
8. Clinical research is expensive and is undertaken only in labs from grants from endowments and the government, or by pharmaceutical companies hoping to make a profit. Unless there is a significant desire to be published or some meaningful economic benefit, a treatment is not likely to be subject to clinical trials. Because of this, the clinical evidence will be skewed to support the standard of care treatments as established by the medical community and pharmaceutical industries, and specifically those that pay the bills. Of course, doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical company shareholders are entitled to make profits, that is why they are in business. The point is not to disparage what they do, merely to help you recognize how the whole system works.
9. The bulk of what is discerned from the clinical studies are based on statistics, and statistical analysis is more of an art than a science (to put it mildly).
10. There are plenty of very efficacious treatments which, because of points 7 and 8 above, were never the subject of clinical trials. No one is willing to invest the money needed to conduct a clinical trial. Because of this, there are plenty of extremely effective protocols that are not “evidenced” by clinical trials. Don’t assume that lack of clinical proof is lack of efficacy. A good example of this is low-dose naltrexone. Naltrexone is a drug that has been around a long time as is thus “off patent”. It has been found to be extremely effective in Chrohn’s disease (as I understand it, it has a 70% cure rate), but since it’s no longer a possible profit center of any drug company, no clinical trials are being done to provide further evidence of its efficacy. Thus, patients suffering with Chrohn’s disease don’t have this treatment protocol as an “evidence based” alternative (but it is clearly available in the “alternative” medical community).