medical quackery

Public–Medicine Dissonance: Why in a World of Evidence-based Medicine?


Michael Gordon, MD, MSc, FRCPC,

Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.


Abstract: The evolution of medicine is quite remarkable and astounding. Modern medicine is successfully treating or providing long-term control of conditions which in the not-so-distant past were lethal or resulted in permanent disability. The strong emphasis on evidence-based medicine in today's medical profession has led to a more organized approach toward evaluating the safety and efficacy of new medical treatments. Despite attempts to meet the complex needs of an ever-aging population, an almost cynical or inherent distrust of physicians in general and their medical claims is being increasingly noted. For many physicians this has led to an uncomfortable sense of professional frustration as doubt is cast on themselves or the medical profession in general when the expectations and goals of patients or their families are not achieved. The causes of this apparent malady of contemporary medicine are myriad and may be explored from various perspectives, depending on the particular issue. To understand better the issues and challenges involved, today's medical practitioner needs to be aware of the complex mix of organizational, professional, ethical, and at times anthropological perspectives contributing to this dissonance between medical professionals and the public. Improving our insight into the forces at work in this dissonance will help medical professionals improve medical services to the public and contribute to the preservation of medicine's admirable historical legacy.
Key Words: Anti-vaccination movement, conspiracy theories, evidence-based medicine, medical quackery, trust in physicians.
Evidence-based medicine asks questions, finds and appraises the relevant data, and harnesses that information for everyday clinical practice. Evidence-based medicine follows four steps:
• Formulate a clear clinical question from a patient’s problem
• Search the literature for relevant clinical articles
• Evaluate (critically appraise) the evidence for its validity and usefulness
• Implement useful findings in clinical practice.
The growing mistrust undermines the patient-doctor relationship, as well as the public’s perspective of health care professionals and the system in general.
If the medical dissonance is left unresolved, the future of health care will become increasingly onerous for those wishing to enter its professions, ultimately impacting those in need of medical services.
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