by Don Ingwerson
Medical overtreatment is leading us to “be sicker and poorer” according to Shannon Brownlee, acting director of the health policy program at the New America Foundation. Brownlee describes the medical scenario that leads her to this conclusion as: “Sometimes the test leads you down a path, a therapeutic cascade, where you start to tumble downstream to more and more testing, and more and more invasive testing, and possibly even treatment for things that should be left well enough alone.”
Just how much of a concern is this overtreatment problem? When New York Times blogger Tara Parker Pope asked readers who had experienced too much medicine to write in, she received more then a thousand responses describing overtreatment.
The responses to Ms. Pope’s question, and a number of studies, point to an increased awareness among the public about this problem and concern, even fear, that they may end up among those who get pulled into such a scenario.
A Wall Street Journal Online/Harris poll says that “nearly three-quarters (72%) of U.S. adults think that patients who have medical conditions experience problems because of being overtreated (i.e., getting too many treatments or getting more aggressive treatment than is appropriate).”
And health policy expert and author H. Gilbert Welch says in his book Overdiagnosed that “screening the apparently healthy potentially saves a few lives. But it definitely drags many others into the system needlessly – into needless appointments, needless tests, needless drugs, and needless operations.” Welch wraps up what he found in medical overtreatment/diagnosis by saying, “For years now, people have been encouraged to look to medical care as the way to make them healthy. But that’s your job. You can’t contract that out.”
Taking control of our health is one way we can address health fears and lessen the risk of being pulled into an overtreatment scenario. Additionally, almost 40% of the public is now choosing alternative approaches to health care, including prayer, which they find effective and which are also less likely to result in overtreatment and its attendant side effects.
The concept of being in control of and caring for your health through spiritual practices is not a new one. Over 140 years ago religious leader and health advocate Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her seminal work, Science and Health, “Fear is the fountain of sickness, and you master fear…through [spirituality]; hence it is through [spirituality] that you overcome disease.” Taking control of my own health needs and not giving in to fearful thoughts on health, I have been able to both prevent and correct health problems through prayer.
As more and more people take control of their health and demand alternative approaches to their health care treatments, clinics, hospitals, and medical schools are shifting to meet this demand.
According to Deepak Chopra, MD, one of the main themes of alternative medicines is to return the power of healing to the patient. Self-treatment is providing healing, which releases the patient from stress, tension, and the unknown – all of which create fear.
And this in turn leads to a reduction in spiraling overtreatment of disease.
Article originally published September 10, 2012 and first published in Blogcritics.