Recent studies have shown that doctors may be overdiagnosing, and overtreating, some types of cancer.
I have a friend who has lung cancer -- the "good," slow-growing kind. His doctors have been less kind than the cancer. They keep screwing up in ways that seem likely to kill my friend before his cancer does.
With my disclosure, I am holding myself publicly accountable to my patients. I am saying that I don't have anything to hide from you. I know you are vulnerable, but I'll be vulnerable with you. This is a partnership. We're in this together.
Better screening tools are detecting more cancers. Women's lives have been saved. These same tools are identifying more cancers that won't result in any harm.
The signers of a new open letter are concerned about excessive psychiatric treatment, excessive dosing, careless polypharmacy, and unnecessary hospitalizations. And so am I. But I am equally concerned about inadequate funding of mental health care and lack of access to treatment for people who need it.
The evidence is compelling that we in the developed countries (especially the US) are overtesting for disease, overdiagnosing it, and overtreating.
We must bring back the art of medicine and the art of healing and treat all of our patients with a "listening infusion."
Not surprisingly, doctors end up not tolerating uncertainty. In our high-tech era, this means more is done. A patient has seemingly vague symptoms, so the doctor orders some laboratory tests "just to get a baseline."
It took me a decade -- first as a caregiver to my mother, and then as a practicing physician and patient advocate -- to figure out that the story is absolutely fundamental to medical practice. Indeed, it can save your life.