It’s a peculiar irony.
Due to the excessively predatory and exploitative nature of healthcare that has evolved into a self-serving, revenue-building business, it means that any interaction with a doctor or other entry points into the healthcare system can be dangerous to your health and finances. One hospitalization can mean unnecessary invasive procedures, turning non-diabetics into diabetics due to awful guideline-driven dietary programs, long lists of unnecessary drugs that adhere to Big Pharma-driven protocols, financial ruin and bankruptcy even if you have healthcare insurance. Doctors pose as healers but are typically nothing of the sort, putting personal financial interests before your interests. Doctors are more than likely, for instance, to be employees of large healthcare systems, incentivized to churn patients for revenues with bigger end-of-quarter bonuses for the more MRIs, CT scans, exploratory laparotomies, neurology or cardiology consultations, organ transplants they generate.
It is, unfortunately, no longer possible to fully protect yourself against this system that seeks to drain you of your savings, as you cannot control what happens if you are in a motor vehicle accident, knocked unconscious and thereby subject to the unrestrained whims of the system. But there are indeed steps you can take to arm yourself as best you can and limit the damage that can be inflicted by an uncaring and predatory system. Among the steps you can take are:
- Become magnificently healthy and thereby useless to the healthcare system—If you don’t have hypertension, you don’t need blood pressure drugs. If you don’t have pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, you don’t need NPH insulin, Toujeo, Byetta, or Farxiga. If you don’t have acid reflux, you don’t need Prilosec, Protonic, or Aciphex and the dysbiosis they bring. If you don’t have joint pain or swelling, you don’t need prednisone, methotrexate, Naproxen, Enbrel, or Humira and the life-threatening side-effects they can cause. If you are not obese, you don’t need gastric bypass, lap-band, Contrave, Saxenda, or Qsymia. If you don’t have fibromyalgia, you don’t need Lyrica, Cymbalta, or Topamax and their long lists of disabling side-effects. Magnificent health, however, can NOT come through the healthcare system because health is not their goal. Being handed a prescription for Lipitor, Atacand, or Desyrel does not make you healthy. Only your own personal efforts can achieve that. This is the basis for the Undoctored program: restore magnificent health and slenderness without the doctor, prescription drugs, or procedures by addressing the common factors that allow diseases to emerge in the first place.
- NEVER take a doctor’s advice at face value—Unquestioningly accepting a doctor’s pronouncement that you have, say, high cholesterol and thereby need statin drugs is like trusting the auto mechanic advising you that a complete $3000 engine rebuild is necessary when just cleaning the carburetor for $50 would have done the trick. A shoulder ache obtained because of strenuous lifting can morph into a $4800 stress nuclear test, a $24,000 heart catheterization, an electrophysiological consult that leads to an $1800 tilt table study, and other tests totaling $40-120,000 for something that would have dissipated on its own over a few days. (It seems outrageous, I know, but I have lost count of the times I witnessed this happening.) ALWAYS question why, ask about alternatives, explore natural methods on your own, and memorize this question: “Are the benefits you quote based on absolute risk or relative risk reduction?”—unsophisticated doctors typically quote the relative risk reduction that wildly exaggerates the benefits of a drug and telling you, for instance, “Take the Lipitor and you heart attack risk is reduced by 36%,” a wild and unjustifiable inflation of the 1% or less benefit it really provides, if it provides any benefit at all. If you receive a curt reply or dismissal or one of the many canned phrases that so readily roll off the tongue of my colleagues like “Who’s the doctor here?” or “Oh, did you go to medical school, too?” then you should promptly walk out without explanation and refuse to pay the bill. And don’t be intimidated or falsely reassured by credentials, e.g., chief of thoracic surgery at University hospital—you’d be shocked to see how some of the worst care can originate with such esteemed “experts.” (One of the most egregious examples that comes to mind was a man in his 40s who, although he had a modestly enlarged aorta, was not even close to requiring the invasive and risky replacement of his aorta, a procedure that was nonetheless performed by the chief of thoracic surgery at a major Chicago hospital, a procedure that required supporting his heart on a bypass pump and substantial risk of postoperative complications; he survived but was never quite the same, a $100,000+ procedure with considerable professional fees generated that had no justifiable indication nor any hope of benefit.)
- Let questions about high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and other measures prompt an exploration of whether you can track such measures on your own. This is because your goals are not aligned with the goals of the doctor. The doctor wants to “treat” your high blood sugar with a menu of drugs costing thousands of dollars per year, while you track blood sugar as an effort to avoid drugs and normalize blood sugar. As our choices of home health tools expands rapidly, so you too will be empowered to manage issues on your own. (This is, by the way, one of the areas that we enthusiastically explore in our Undoctored Inner Circle, as the ability to measure and track puts enormous power in the hands of the individual.)
- Identify a health advocate—It could be a naturopath, integrative or functional medicine practitioner, or chiropractor, but it’s probably not your conventional primary care M.D. Identify someone who can help you navigate health questions and know whether the advice your doctor gave you to, say, begin Lyrica to provide relief from fibromyalgia while yielding extravagant weight gain, type 2 diabetes, impaired memory, and incoordination while never considering that there is virtually 100% likelihood that you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, SIBO, as the underlying cause that, when addressed, yields complete relief along with reduced body-wide inflammation, improved metabolic health with reduced insulin resistance, and better bowel health and reduction of colon cancer risk, factors unaddressed by just taking the drug. Or explore whether the Gardisil HPV vaccine your primary care doctor or gynecologist recommended really does what the doctor and Merck claim, an issue that may be tough to decipher on your own. But be careful: In my view, you should NEVER accept the pronouncements of organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society, and certainly not the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as they have chosen to take the considerable donations from Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Aventis, Medtronic, Kelloggs, Kraft, General Mills and other big commercial interests—interests that are not necessarily aligned with your interests.
That’s a start. Just recognizing that the doctor is not your friend, the hospital is not a place for health, and that any interaction with the healthcare system is potentially hazardous to your health and finances gets you started on defending yourself from this shameful thing called American healthcare.