Ethics in Medicine

Believing in Treatments That Don’t Work

Kristen Sparrow • April 02, 2009

That is the title of author David H. Newman MD’s piece today in the NYTimes. On a medical acupuncturist’s blog readers might conclude that the title refers to ineffective alternative medical treatments or supplements. But no. Dr. Newman is referring to many of the sacred tenets of medical practice that have been debunked but are still followed blindly.

He does a good job in pointing some of the biggest ideological practices in medicine, though there are many more than this. Beta-blockers for heart attacks, cough remedies for adults or children, antibiotics for ear infections, bronchitis, sinusitis or sore throats (cost $2billion/year), back surgeries (cost $20 billion): none have not been shown to be useful in carefully conducted medical studies.

He asks these questions of the medical community, “Can we abide by the evidence when it tells us that antibiotics don’t clear ear infections or help strep throats? Can we stop asking for, and writing, these prescriptions? Can we stop performing, and asking for, knee and back surgeries? Can we handle what the evidence reveals? Are we ready for the truth?”

At least there are those in the medical community asking the question.
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