Doctors, Consider Side Effects before Prescribing a Treatment

A word to doctors: Walk a mile in your patient's shoes

I'll bet you've never heard me say this before: I just read a great medical article in the New York Times!

Yep, you read that one right: Loathe as I am to give kudos to such shameless purveyors of mainstream (see also liberal) claptrap, I must confess that a recent article in that hallowed rag made me stand up and cheer

Because it made a point I've been trumpeting forever and a day!

That point is this: Before conventional doctors (or alt-medicine docs like me, for that matter) prescribe a course of treatment for any illness - whether mild, severe, real or imagined - they should consider the effects of that decision on the PATIENT'S LIFE! I've been shouting this for years about so many mainstream procedures I can't even remember them all. To me, this seems second nature - even sacred; part of what I was trained to do in med school

But I wonder if today's docs even bother to consider side effects before breaking out the pills and scalpels? Consider the typical outcomes of the TURP surgery for prostate problems (impotence and incontinence) The devastation of chemotherapy for cancer sufferers

Or the weight gain, lethargy, acne, and depression that can accompany Lithium therapy for bipolar disorder. (In the olden days, we called it manic-depressive disease) That's what the New York Times piece was about - how such mainstream therapy has ruined the life of a formerly happy, attractive, optimistic doctor (psychiatrist) once she was diagnosed as "bipolar." It chronicled her struggle with the condition, the downsides of mainstream treatments for the disease, and the fact that these life-changing side effects carried little weight with her prescription-happy doctors.

Now, she overeats because the drugs stimulate her appetite. She can't exercise much because the drugs siphon away all her energy. She can't get a date. It's a struggle to get up in the morning. She can just barely stay in practice

It's a shame, too, because she may not even need the drugs at all. Bipolar disorder is among the more commonly misdiagnosed of mental illnesses today. And really, how bad could her case have been if she successfully completed medical school and started her residency before it was diagnosed? It's also a shame because there are safe, natural alternative treatments that wouldn't have made her overweight, miserable, and dysfunctional.

It shouldn't be too much to ask your doctor to see life through your eyes. If your doc won't, look for one who will!

A fitting eulogy for a fallen friend

I've written before about Dr. Robert Atkins, the pioneering father of the modern low-carb, high-fat diet that's helped millions lose weight and improve their cardiovascular health. But no tribute I could ever render would dignify the late doctor's work as much as the one that appeared this past month in the hallowed pages of the New England Journal of Medicine

Finally, after 30 years, the medical mainstream grudgingly acknowledged the good doctor's advice about the dangers of the low-fat and high-carbohydrate diet so rampant in the 70s and 80s. It seems that the last decade's groundswell of popular support for his ultra-successful nutritional blueprint for weight loss and heart health has forced the mainstream to undertake what's been billed as the very first "controlled" trial of the Atkins diet

That's right: A 12-round heavyweight championship bout between titans of the dieting world - the low-fat conformers vs. the low-carb reformers. It doesn't take a bookmaker to predict who's going to prevail here. Why do you think conventional medicine resisted staging this little rumble for over 30 years? After 12 month-long rounds, the scorecard reads like this:

* Atkins subjects had lost more weight than their conventional-diet counterparts at every measured interval - 3, 6, and 12 months.
* After 12 months, Atkins subjects had more than 6 TIMES AS MUCH HDL (good cholesterol) as conventional dieters.
* Triglycerides had dropped 27 TIMES AS MUCH in Atkins dieters as in the high-carb, low-fat control group.
* The Atkins dieters showed identical levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) as the control group - with absolutely no fluctuation in either group over 12 months.

Looks like we've crowned a new heavyweight diet and heart-health champion - by a knockout, no less! But it's such a shame that my good friend Dr. Atkins wasn't here to see his life's work validated by his foes

But we are, and let's not forget him.

Treating patients as people,
William Campbell Douglass II, MD