Monday, September 3, 2012

Sick or Not, Who Decides?

As modern medicine evolved into this formidably complicated ("obese" is a better word) system - from theory to practice, from financial/labor investment to sky high price, modern people seem to completely yield themselves to medicine authority, for any trivial issues to serious ones, unquestionably listen to doctors, depend on doctors, and no longer listen to their own bodies, no longer depend on themselves.

We have annual check up, if the results said you have this or that disease, you would believe totally, and take whatever treatments doctors assigned to you, even if you felt completely nothing wrong with your daily physical function. And sooner or later you may still felt nothing different but, after going back check up again, doctor told you that numbers were all good now, then you certainly believed that, felt happy that all your suffering was over, even though all you suffered during the "illness" was "taking pills". On the other hand, there are a huge amount of people who claim being sick, or even chronically sick, but doctors could never find anything wrong with them. So these "sick people" have to do "doctor shopping" again and again, the result was the same: the numbers (of check up) are all "beautiful". At this point doctors usually would suggest that the patients' feeling ill was "imagined". So here comes mental issue: how is your personal life? Have you been feeling depressed?

Usually this type of "patients" with "beautiful numbers" have two choices: listening to doctors and take those anti-depressant and get sicker and sicker, or, refused to accept doctors' assumptions about mental illness and put the health into their own hands. I am one of the latter who refused to admit I was mentally ill. After a few attempts (back 10 years ago) trying to get helps from cardiologists I pretty much realized they could do nothing good for me. Even though after all these years I am still not completely recovered yet, I have no doubt that I will reach that day, sooner or later.

I also know many people who listened doctors' suggestions ("mental illness") and ended up with disastrous consequence. One of examples is Sophia Mirza (1), who died in 2005 with CFS when she was 29. Before she was died, she was treated as a mental ill patient. According to Wiki: "Mirza's physical symptoms were treated as a mental condition and her carers were accused of 'enabling' her. In July 2003 Mirza was sectioned for two weeks by her doctors, who believed her condition was psychosomatic, an action which her mother believed severely worsened her condition". (
I personally believe that the death of Sophia Mirza was mostly caused by medical treatments.

There are tones of other patients who followed medical experts also had very serious consequence. Many of them could not even handle their daily life. And the chronic conditions last not only months, but years, some of them decades (mine is over 10 years). When these patients realized that listening do doctors was essentially wrong, usually it was very late. For some of them they it was indeed "too late".

Most people believe that science of modern medicine knows everything about our bodies, so they naturally believe that if doctors find nothing wrong with a person, this person must imagined his/her illness. Many "normal" people don't even know that there exists a huge population of "invisible disease patients" (I don't remember where I've read that the population of invisible disease patients in US are approximately 1 million). This, is so unfair to most unknown illness patients, because not only they don't get any helps from professionals (2), but also they don't get much mental support. They have to live not only with physical suffering, but also mental isolation, misunderstanding, social stigma and prejudice (many of them even come from family members). (I have many personal stories about this so just don't let me start...)

I think, the real blind spot is, after human mind evolved for so long time, we have been so amazed by left hemisphere of human brain (reason) that we forgot our right side brain (feeling, sense) is the "real boss" (I actually tend to believe that many people pretty much lost the ability to "feel" over the course of "civilization"). I believe, as far as our physical health is concerned, we better follow how our bodies feel than to depend on the numbers of check up by machine. This is not to say that I don't believe in science, nor to say that the numbers checked by machines are all useless, but only mean that the function of our bodies are way more complicated than what modern medical science can cover (so far), so better we use professionals' opinions as references, in many cases, if not all cases.

Modern society is a complicated machine, in which people work in different "parts". Modern cultures create "experts" in different fields, and these experts usually know nothing about others fields. Humans become more and more like tools that work in different separate parts of modern machine: lawyer, engineer, doctor (and among doctors we have eye doctor, lung doctor, cardiologist, dentist, etc.). My experience told me, that if we really know nothing about the fields outside of our own professions, and completely trust those experts, we easily end up with huge mistakes when we do "business" with them (I had bad business with lawyer, car mechanics, etc.), and the fault is our own. Since health is most crucial to our lives, doubtlessly, the biggest mistake we could ever make is to completely trust medical experts, ignoring completely what our won bodies telling us.


1: More information about Sophia Mirza:

2: For me this is acceptable because I actually believe many illnesses are "personal", so it's up to patients themselves to cure.


  1. I agree with a lot of what you've said here. The paternalistic approach in modern medicine has helped create "helpless" patients who now take no responsibility in their own health matters. There are also people who enjoy the sick role, people who experience secondary gain from their illnesses...if anyone is mentally ill, I think it's that population of people. People are slowly starting to swing the other way now, to the point of feeing they know more than their doctors on a routine basis; this is where a little knowledge, gleaned from the internet, is a dangerous thing. IMHO, the practice of medicine and the treatment of illness should be a cooperative effort, between patient and physician.

  2. yunyi, I know from personal experience how "wrong" doctors can be and would never accept anything they say on blind faith. There is much talk these days of preventative medicine, and I think one of the best ways to practice this would be to avoid doctors and medicine as much as possible.

  3. @kris
    thanks for your input! i know you are professional with an open mind. so i truly appreciate it. yes, the best way to practice medicine indeed is "cooperative effort, between patient and physician".

    @np, i agree about this "preventive" thing. for my own experience, i have been doing that for about 10 years. i did not mention in my post about our bodies' self regulation but i suppose it is not new for many people. with good life style, our bodies can cure most diseases by themselves.