When Doctors Go On Strike
by Dr Mercola
With Rachael Droege
A major paper by Australian researchers asks a question that should never have needed to be asked: Will more doctors increase or decrease death rates? But sadly, with the state of health care as it is, this is a very legitimate, even necessary, inquiry.
The report, Will More Doctors Increase or Decrease Death Rates? (PDF), conducted by the Center for Health Program Evaluation in Australia, refers to Australian statistics, but I believe the information is relevant to America and other countries as well. The hypothesis? An increase in the doctor supply is associated with an increase in death rates. Read on to find out several potential reasons why this hypothesis may in fact be true.
Health Care and Adverse Events
One possibility of why medical care may increase death rates is the large number of adverse events associated with it. The report mentions a 1995 study in which close to 17 percent of 14,000 hospital admissions were associated with an adverse event. Of those, 51 percent were considered preventable, in close to 14 percent the disability was permanent and in almost 5 percent the patient died.
Dependency on Medical Care
A second possibility, which the researchers call 'the dependency hypothesis,' is the notion that the more doctors available, the more dependent people are on medical care to maintain their health. They therefore place less importance on lifestyle factors that can have a greater affect on their health.
I believe this is one of the major prevailing thoughts in America and is one of the main reasons why so many people are facing chronic illnesses. It is also one of my primary reasons for establishing this site years ago [www.mercola.com] - to help people realize that they can, and need to, take responsibility for their own health. Doctors are certainly necessary and useful at times, but ultimately the responsibility for your health is your own.
Cognitive Dissonance, or Conflicting Beliefs
Another interesting concept explored in the report is that of cognitive dissonance. Most basically, this is the unsettling state that occurs when a person has conflicting beliefs or opinions.
Cognitive dissonance affects most everyone, but in regard to healthcare many people understand that certain lifestyle choices are better for their health, yet may not want to make the 'right' choices because they are less pleasurable in the present. In order to resolve the conflict of knowing intellectually what the healthy lifestyle choices are while having a desire to live a self-indulgent life, the researchers say people may 'adopt an exaggerated confidence in the efficacy of medical care and its ability to offset the harmful effects of self-neglect.'
Failure to Inform Patients on Health Truths?
You may have noticed the article listed on the home page titled Doctors Are the Number Three Cause of Death in the U.S. This Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) article really reveals the state of the health care system in the United States and if you haven't read it already I encourage you to do so.
Interestingly, Dr. Starfield, who published the original study mentioned above, said she disagreed with the headline I had come up with. She did not feel that doctors were the third leading cause of death, but thought they were the number one cause of death because of their failure to inform patients about the truth of health. I believe this might be a bit too harsh as even if people understand the health truths they still have freedom of choice and can choose to use sugar, soda and drugs (legal and illegal) to compromise their health and longevity.
Nevertheless, the Australian researchers concluded that their hypothesis that an increase in the doctor supply is associated with an increase in death rates needs to be seriously contemplated.
EHealthy News You Can Use, 26th May 2004. Issue 536