Medical errors are common, often cited as the third most common cause of death in the U.S. Of course, in the Undoctored lifestyle, we work to absolutely minimize our interactions with doctors, prescription drugs, hospitals, and medical procedures by correcting all the factors that permit common chronic health conditions to emerge in the first place—your best protection is to be healthy and not enter an imperfect system filled with hazards.
But it would be silly to think that we can, over a lifetime, avoid any interaction. Entry into the medical system might involve MMR vaccine, a urinary tract infection that converts to pyelonephritis and sepsis, a knee injury in soccer, a kitchen mishap resulting in a burned hand, an automobile accident with head injury, and all the other unfortunate events that modern humans can become involved in.
So it would be wise to be armed with information and some understanding of how the medical system works before you are added to the long list of inadvertent medical outcomes, i.e., medical errors. I stumbled across an instructive blog post entitled Surgery: Hope for the best but plan for the worst! authored by Erik Peper, PhD, Professor of Holistic Health at San Francisco State University. In his blog, he details the awful experience he had after being told that he’d be back on his feet one week after his double laparoscopic hernia surgery, but instead experienced repeated problems, infections, and emergency room visits that stretched out over two years. The entire several page-long blog post is definitely worth a read, but his advice on, if a medical procedure is unavoidable, what precautions to take to minimize the dangers are especially helpful and ring true, given my over three decades experience in the medical system. He advises:
- Schedule elective medical procedures or surgery early the morning and in the middle of the week. Do not schedule procedures on Mondays, Fridays, or in the afternoon. Procedures performed in the afternoon have significant increase in complications and errors.
- Schedule procedures so that you are released early in the day. This can allow you to return to the facility in case complications arise.
- Have procedures performed at a medical facility in which the health care professional has no financial interest—take economics out of the equation. When health care practitioners have financial interest in a facility, they tend to order more tests and procedures than health care providers who have no financial interests.
He goes into great detail on proactive steps you—ideally accompanied by an advocate on your behalf—can take to navigate the process as safely as possible.
In my experience, the biggest hurdle to obtaining quality care without mishap is practitioner indifference: people in the healthcare system typically regard themselves as somehow better than you, do not have an obligation to fully inform you of such things as alternatives or potential risks, that you don’t have the sophistication to understand the issues, etc. and they thereby do a cursory job. In my experience, doctors and associated staff in the procedural specialties—surgery, gastroenterology, cardiology, ophthalmology—are the most guilty of indifference. Dr. Peper goes into detail on how to minimize this sort of interaction.
Once through, re-embrace all Undoctored principles that medical personnel regard as silly and unnecessary such as the diet we follow that allows better healing (due to reduced skin inflammation), accelerated bone healing from vitamin D restoration, accelerated healing due to the oxytocin boost we obtain from L reuteri, faster return to healthy bowel flora after peri-procedural antibiotics while minimizing potential for Clostridium difficile enterocolitis through our efforts to cultivate desirable bacterial species.