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Thursday, November 21, 2013

The "truth" about medicine is there are few "truths"

I talk a lot on this blog about myths in the health care industry.  Good examples of this is the myth that all that wheezes is asthma, or the myth that oxygen will cause a COPD patient to stop breathing.  Medicine being filled with myths is nothing new, as the truth has eluded the medical community since the beginning of time.

Consider the following quote written by Jeane Bendick in her 2002 book called "Galen and the Gateway to Medicine:"
Human beings find the truth about things very slowly, with much effort, and with more than an occasional wrong turn.  As Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, rightly said, our minds are to the truth as the eyes of bats to the sun.  In short, progress in knowledge generally follows a rather winding path, guided as much by the educated guesses of the explorers as by the nature of what is being explored.
In other words, fallacies, or myths, in medicine are nothing new.  Hippocrates was the first physician to to ask questions about medicine and search for answers.  He called these answers theories.  As new wisdom was learned over the years, new theories were formed.  Even as anatomical wisdom first started to grow in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and mankind entered into a scientific revolution in the 19th and 20th centuries, theories persisted that simply were not true.  Some still about to this day.  Some new ones have also been established.

Such theories were (and some still are) believed not because they were ever proven, but because they sounded good.  So much of the theories regarding medicine today were formed, and are still believed, because they sound good, as opposed to because they were scientifically proven.

But this is nothing new.  Of all the sciences, the medical profession was and is historically the most resistant to change.  It's hard to change a proud and dogmatic profession.  It's hard for many physicians to admit what they learned in school might no longer be true.  It's just the way it always has been, and still is.

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