Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

I Got My M.D. on the Internet

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

I Got My M.D. on the Internet

Article excerpt

The internet is great for a lot of things. You can keep up on news that isn't really news. You can see what other people are eating for dinner, and you can reacquaint yourself with people you're not sure you ever even knew.The one bad thing, though, is that the internet has convinced all of us that we have a medical degree.

In the bad old days, folks died of things such as "consumption" or "the grippe," and you woke up every morning knowing today could be the first day of the end of your life. When you noticed something wrong with your body, you had two choices: You could just wait it out and see whether you lived or died. If you lived, you could make yourself a crutch out of a tree branch and hobble about till you got eaten by a bear or killed by marauders. You could also go to a country doctor, who would probably make a salve made of goat's blood and cheese curd. It was gross, but at least you could die a little faster and wouldn't have to go to all the bother of whittling a crutch.

As civilization developed, you could go to real doctors, ones with diplomas and white coats. They probably couldn't save you, but they could tell you, in a serious voice, how many months you had till you kicked the bucket. It was an improvement, though, because doctors could make a living off the rest of us not living, and the market for Cadillacs and golf clubs went through the roof.

Ironically, just as doctors are finally learning to do something about ailments, Americans are becoming more self-absorbed and self-confident, running off to their computers and firing up Google the minute a hint of trouble shows up.

While there's tons of information available, it's too much to handle. Got night sweats? Maybe you need to swap out the flannel sheets, but could you have cancer? Blurred vision? Most likely dirty eyeglasses. Or how about a brain tumor? Cold toes? You need socks. Could I possibly interest you in some interesting but debilitating circulatory problems?

In addition to voluminous scary options, you'll also get loads of medical advice from people without a shred of medical training. Whatever bump, rash or pain you have, there's some idiot out there who has had something similar and has enough time on his hands to tell you all about how horrible his experience was. …

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