Skepticism about science and medicine

In search of disinterested science

Towards fixing modern medical practice

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2013/09/17

I was astonished to learn that prominent mainstream institutions had recently held a conference aimed at finding ways to fix the considerable things wrong with modern medical practice, at last some of which I’ve regarded as unassailable sacred cows or untouchable third rails:

“Global Conference Statement

‘Preventing Overdiagnosis’

Overdiagnosis harms people world-wide and exacerbates under-treatment by wasting much needed resources. (1) Over 320 scientists, clinicians, policy-makers and consumer advocates from almost 30 countries across 6 continents have just attended the first scientific conference on preventing overdiagnosis, and related problems of overmedicalization, overdetection, diagnosis creep and overtreatment. (2) The conference was organized by an alliance of one of the world’s most respected medical journals, BMJ and the United States’ most trusted consumer organisation, Consumer Reports, The Dartmouth Institute and Australia’s Bond University.

Over 150 presenters shared the science of overdiagnosis and proposals to wind back the harms of too much medicine, safely and fairly, consistent with people’s values. The conference builds on momentum from efforts to reduce overtesting and overtreatment, such as the Less is More,(3) Choosing Wisely, (4) Selling Sickness, (5) and the Right Care initiatives. (6)”

I was alerted to this by a friend who had seen a piece about it at Psychology Today:

“Too Much Medicine Is Bad For Our Health

Summary of a wonderful conference on “preventing overdiagnosis”
Published on September 13, 2013 by Allen J. Frances, M.D. in Saving Normal

The just completed conference ‘Preventing Over Diagnosis’ was easily the most important meeting I ever attended. Sponsored by the British Medical Journal, Consumer’s Reports, and Dartmouth and Bond Universities, the goal was to identify the excesses in medical care and to figure out how to correct them.

The evidence is compelling that we in the developed countries (especially the US) are overtesting for disease, overdiagnosing it, and overtreating. Wasteful medical care of milder or nonexistent problems does more harm than good to the individual patient, diverts scarce medical resources away from those who really need them, and is an unsustainable drain on the economy.

The causes of medical excess are many and powerful. Here is a truncated list:….”

Read the whole piece and, like me, be tempted into at least temporary optimism that the governmental-medical-industrial edifice might be morphed into something that benefits primarily people who get ill.


One Response to “Towards fixing modern medical practice”

  1. These pronouncements remind me of John Quincy Adams, who wrote as a new senator to his father, “The great art of legislation: To do a thing by assuming the appearance of preventing it… (and) …to prevent a thing by assuming that of doing it.” Science has turned this political perversion into a science.


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