Do doctors have some out of this world divine quality I was unaware of? That is the question that stuck to my head after a family member of mine reported the latest medical adventures another family member of mine went through.
As events transpire, that second relative of mine has started suffering from severe eye issues. On they went to an eye doctor who gave them some drops. These didn't help, so on they went again to the same doctor who gave them another type of eye drops to try. These didn't help, so on they went again to the doctor who - hold your breath, please - gave them yet another type of eye drops to try. Surprisingly, these didn't work either.
Through some sort of coincidence the family has learnt they can see an eye specialist for a minimal cost using their private medical insurance; all the need is a referral from their existing eye doctor. So off my relative went to their regular eye doctor to claim their referral, which they got in a cinch. Then off they went to the specialist, who told them to stop applying any eye drops for a while to let the eye settle, and then go for a series of tests. At this point, they got annoyed with the first doctor: if the doctor didn't really know what to do, why couldn't he/she give my relative that referral earlier and out of his/her initiative?
Now, the value of critical analysis and healthy skepticism has been previously discussed in this blog. My point with this post is to demonstrate yet again how valuable such an approach is, and how important it is that we apply it regularly on anything and everything. It's really simple: Had my relative applied critical analysis, it should have been clear to them their doctor was playing a guessing game. Had my relative applied some skepticism and challenged their doctor, they wouldn't have had to wait for a coincidence to put the option of a specialist on the agenda.
Yet when I asked my relatives why the doctor was never really challenged I was told it is impossible; you do not mess with a doctor at work. This, in turn, got me to raise the question I have opened this post with, namely me pondering as to whether there is something of the divine in doctors that prevents us from challenging them?
According to the information available to me, doctors are people just like each and every one of us; they eat, they sleep, and they take the occasional dump. The difference is, they have studied and specialized in a certain area for a long time; but that's it, and to that argument I can say the same applies to me yet I have been known to make mistakes on a regular and very frequent basis. Just like me, doctors have a lot of things on their mind while at work, a lot of which has nothing to do with work; and unlike me, doctors see many patients on a typical day and are usually only able to devote a very small portion of their attention to each and every patient. In short, there are very good reasons to critically analyze a doctor's instructions. It's not only that the doctor's are imperfect, it's also to do with what is at stake here: one's health.
No, I am not saying that doctors should be disobeyed, nor am I saying one can always know better than them. However, I am saying that one should ask the doctor "why" from time to time to make sure they understand the rational behind a suggested treatment. I am also suggesting one cross references doctors' advice with other information, through the internet for example (with the added disclaimer that there is a lot of bullshit out there on the internet, especially with regards to medical advice; one has to use reliable sources and be carefully skeptical in general). I maintain that if my family had conformed to this simple analysis things would not have turned out the way they did.
Then again, one cannot say I am surprised. Critical analysis is a rare thing in my family and in society in general: just check how many families fail to install their baby car seat in the center of the back seat, the safest place in a car, for the sole reason of not even thinking up the possibility.
As I have said, critical analysis can save your life. Apply it.