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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Health. Why anecdotes should take preference to medical science

Most conventional medical treatments start with medical science.

  • They are developed and tested in a laboratory.
  • Testing shows that they have some beneficial affect on the human body, for some reason.
  • Each treatment is further tested for its effectiveness and safety.
  • Only after this is the treatment made available to the public.

The history of most pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, and most conventional medical treatments, is one in which medical science is paramount. It is what conventional medicine calls their 'evidence base'. Anecdotal evidence, usually comes from patients, is not treated seriously, certainly not seriously enough, with conventional medicine wearing this denial almost as a badge of honour.

Okay, medical science is deeply, fundamentally flawed. It does not do what it is supposed to do, largely because rich and powerful pharmaceutical companies have lost touch with anything resembling ethical standards, and can make sure that the medical science it buys produces results that favours company profitability rather than patient safety.

Yet there is another reason to begin to look more favourably on ANECDOTES, why they should take over from MEDICAL SCIENCE.

It is when patients start medical treatment that anecdotal evidence comes into the picture. Patients begin to notice that all is not right, that something is wrong, or is going wrong, and that the treatment might be the cause.

  • Many patients do not mention it, they lack confidence to challenge doctors, who they believe know best. 
  • Some patients mention it but are assured by their doctor that it is not the treatment - it is something else, that there are so many other factors that could be causing the problem. What have you been eating recently? Have you been feeling stressed? 
  • Perhaps you ought to take this treatment too, to deal with the new symptoms you are experiencing!

None of this is recorded, of course. It is just anecdotal. Results from the laboratory, in controlled conditions, have informed us that this does not happen with this treatment. Medical science has said that the treatment is both effective and safe. And this is what the conventional medical establishment stands by! They know best! After all, the patient is just a patient, they are not scientists, or doctors - what does he/she know anyway?

So these patient report are discounted, they are just anecdotes, unscientific, unproven connections. So they are not recorded on the 'yellow card' reporting system, the drug regulator is not bothered with such stuff. This, of course, leads to further denials (what the patients is experiencing is not recognised as a side effect because no-one has reported it)! They don’t count. Indeed, they should not count when set against the rigours of medical science.

In recent months, they have even been dismissed as ‘nocebo', that is, patients have heard about side effects, so they just think they are getting this reaction. But they aren’t. Patients are just imagining it.

So years pass by. But during this time there are more and more such anecdotes. Indeed, they become more serious, in fact too serious to be dismissed, even by the conventional medical establishment! So patient anecdotes begin to be recorded. Denial will usually continue - they are ‘rare’; and after all, we are told, all treatment has to have some side effects! But now they are noted; and when they continue to come in, warnings to doctors are issued - be careful. Don't use the treatment with these patients, or in these circumstances. But don't stop the treatment, it is so important for the patient!

But then it all becomes too serious. The anecdotes reach a level, and a seriousness, that can no longer be discounted or ignored, the evidence can no longer be denied or dismissed. There are just too many, and they are too serious. So the conventional medical establishment has to develop a different strategy - finding some quiet way to ditch the treatment. Not too much publicity, please! We may have been causing these problems for decades, we might not have taken them seriously, and we might have caused millions of patients serious harm... But we don't want anyone to know about this. Here, we have this new treatment, get rid of the old, bring in the new, after all, there has not been time, yet, for these new treatments to be fully experienced and assessed. So we can assume they are safe!

So why should anecdotes take over from medical science?

Well, anecdotes come from patients, real people, who are suffering real experiences, in real life. They may not be medical scientists. They may not be feeling these adverse affects in a controlled, laboratory settings. But they do know how they feel. And they do know when they started to feel that way. And they can assess what part the new treatment has played.

Yet in conventional medicine patients do not really count! What do they know? Doctors have been trained for many years. And conventional treatment are all 'scientifically' tried and tested! Medical science is science! It has to be right.

Science has become arrogant. They are right, they think they know everything, that what they say is unchallengeable, there should be no argument. What they know is scientific, so there should be no argument about it.

And there is no science more arrogant as medical science; nor any science that is so powerfully backed. Forget that it is paid for by pharmaceutical companies, who’s main aim is to make money, lots of money. So medical testing is not done, or it is done inadequately; or test results are misinterpreted; or ‘negative’ results are not reported at all; or safety factors are ignored or discounted; and the benefits of treatments can be routinely exaggerated.

It is important to note that no other industry functions on this basis. If a customer reports that a car, or a dish washer, or a television, or anything else, might be dangerous, it is immediately treated as a 'health and safety issue', and action is quickly taken to protect the consumer. Often the product is suspended, even withdrawn, until its safety is confirmed. The 'fail safe' principle is applied.

But for some reason the precautionary principle is not applied to conventional medicine, or in the regulation of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines.

Instead, conventional medicine seems to be more about 'patient beware' than health and safety. If patients believe that a drug, or vaccine, or some other form of treatment might be harmful, they are ignored. Even if a side effect is reported, the treatment is not suspended, and is never withdrawn, until it is proven to be safe. Usually, such prevarication (or negligence) can take years, even decades. In the meantime, millions of patients can be harmed, or even killed by a treatment, but the treatment continues to be used until proven, without reasonable doubt, that it is too dangerous.

     This is why medical science has failed patients.

     This is why anecdote is important, and needs to be given more prominence in medicine.