Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America

Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America

Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America

Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America

Synopsis

At a time when access to health care in the United States is being widely debated, Nortin Hadler argues that an even more important issue is being overlooked. Although necessary health care should be available to all who need it, he says, the current health-care debate assumes that everyone requires massive amounts of expensive care to stay healthy. Hadler urges that before we commit to paying for whatever pharmaceutical companies and the medical establishment tell us we need, American consumers need to adopt an attitude of skepticism and arm themselves with enough information to make some of their own decisions about what care is truly necessary.Each chapter of Worried Sick is an object lesson regarding the uses and abuses of a particular type of treatment, such as mammography, colorectal screening, statin drugs, or coronary stents. For consumers and medical professionals interested in understanding the scientific basis for Hadler's arguments, each topical chapter has an accompanying source chapter in which Hadler discusses the medical literature and studies that inform his critique.According to Hadler, a major stumbling block to rational health-care policy in the United States is contention over the very concept of what constitutes good health. By learning to distinguish good medical advice from persuasive medical marketing, consumers can make better decisions about their personal health and use that wisdom to inform their perspectives on health-policy issues.

Excerpt

Anyone who has gone up against a powerful establishment knows that assuming the role of a dissident can be a lonely place, and there are few enterprises more powerful, both economically and culturally, than American medicine. In Worried Sick, Dr. Nortin Hadler bravely takes on both his own profession and the industry it serves, along with the culture of medicalization that has grown in parallel with the expansion of health care as the dominant sector of the nation’s economy. There are two central and vital messages in this book. First, Hadler clearly believes that many of the medical services—the treatments, tests, drugs, and surgeries—that have been developed over the last century have enormous potential for improving and extending patients’ lives. Hadler’s second message, however, is the more powerfully essential: not everybody needs to become a patient to enjoy a long and healthy life.

We live in a society where we are constantly being exhorted, by public health officials, the media, patient advocacy groups, drug and device companies, and our own physicians, to be ever vigilant for the first signs of incipient disease. We constantly worry that every little ache and pain is a harbinger of an infectious disease, cancer, an incipient heart attack. Every stuffy nose requires a trip to the doctor, even though it is almost certainly caused by a virus and will run its course without medical intervention. Every headache is a possible brain tumor. Every child who won’t stay put in his seat has attention deficit disorder and needs to be treated with psychiatric drugs. “Catch it early” is the watchword, “know your numbers,” or, as one advertisement for virtual colonoscopy put it, “Bad news can be good news if you get it early enough.” Then there is the slew of new syndromes and disorders to worry about—restless leg syndrome, social anxiety disorder, osteopenia, irritable bowel syndrome, Lyme disease—many of which are inventions of the pharmaceutical industry, which is perennially anxious to find new markets for its products.

Hadler puts much of the hype and fear-mongering into proper context, marshalling science to show that most of us need to worry less and live more. In the process he takes on some of the sacred cows of both alternative and . . .

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