A while back I wrote about my irritation with the conspiracy theory that drug companies don’t want a cure for cancer because they make so much money off of treatment. A corollary to that is the notion that doctors and our health care system are geared towards treatment rather than prevention. Whether it’s because they’re greedy (cause they get more money from sick people than well people) or simply narrow-sighted, since they’re trained to treat and cure and not prevent, they don’t have any interest in the latter.
This idea not only makes me angry because I’m married to a doctor, but it also makes me angry because often (though not always) those making the claim are part of the problem. And even if they aren’t, there are enough to suggest that it’s not that doctors aren’t interested in prevention, patients aren’t interested in prevention.
Who is the one telling you that you should lose weight? That’s a doctor, and he’s trying to prevent something bad from happening. Are you listening? Probably not. Who is the one telling you to stop smoking? That’s a doctor, and she’s trying to prevent something bad from happening. Simply because we don’t listen doesn’t mean that they aren’t talking. And this is a big one: who support vaccinations that prevent bad things from happening? Doctors. Who opposes them? Many of modern medicine’s harshest critics.
Jane Galt’s entire post on prevention (though it deals more with the pharma side of things) is worth reading, but one section in particular stood out:
There are major incentive problems with vaccines, and to be fair he touches on one of them: because vaccines protect you against something you haven’t got yet, patients are more likely to sue if something goes wrong. And as they become more widespread, people are tempted to free ride on the vaccinations of others. It is only because almost everyone is vaccinated that phobic parents are willing to let their children go un-immunized; if measles and polio were widespread, they’d be a lot more worried about possible blindness and paralysis than about the extremely rare side effects of vaccines. This is a public health problem in areas like Boulder, where bobo parents refusing to vaccinate their children have caused a resurgence in diseases like Whooping Cough and measles–unfortunately, affecting not just their children, but adults whose immunity has waned over time.
Boulder, for those of you unfamiliar with the area, is a posh yuppie new agey hippie liberal college town (University of Colorado). I point out the politics/spirituality/juju of Boulder because it represents the new agey sort of attitude that believes that vaccines are harmful but doctors aren’t effective because they’re unconcerned with prevention. Of course, many of such people will only accept cures that aren’t chemically synthesized because chemical compounds are bad for our health, as evidenced by how much shorter our lifespans have become since we started making pills rather than pulling them from roots in the ground.
Anyway, people in general are suspicious of vaccines in part because they are not immediately familiar with the problem. Once they become so, of course, it’s into damage control and suddenly they wonder why doctors didn’t stop this from happening in the first place.