Back in the late 1980s, and 1990s I did some research which proved conclusively that doctors, hospitals and drug companies were one of the top three causes of death – up there alongside cancer and circulatory disease problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
I managed to prove that the person most likely to kill you is not a relative or a friend, or a mugger or a burglar or a drunken driver.
The person most likely to kill you is your doctor. That may seem slightly disturbing but it’s a fact.
At the time my research, and the rather startling conclusions, were regarded as heretical and I got pretty widely attacked for daring to reveal the truth. Neither the medical establishment nor the pharmaceutical industry was too keen on people understanding just how bad things had got.
I was so staggered by what I’d discovered that in the 1990s I wrote a book called How to stop your doctor killing you in which I described what had gone wrong, and how readers could protect themselves.
Since then nothing has improved. Indeed, it is now widely accepted that doctors are one of the top three causes of death.
And second, the advice I gave then, a quarter of a century ago, is still completely valid today.
The problems which make doctors so dangerous are still the same as they were.
And the biggest problem, I’m afraid, is that doctors, as a profession, tend to be slow to accept new ideas, far too eager to accept what they are told by the pharmaceutical industry, and woefully unimaginative.
Over the last thirty years I have published many warnings (many of them about particular pharmaceutical products or about the pharmaceutical industry in general). The medical establishment has always scoffed, sneered, ridiculed and done its best to suppress my warnings and ensure that they were ignored by others.
In the beginning medical spokesmen would openly laugh at my warnings.
These days the establishment goes one step further and hurls abuse in my direction, hoping, I suppose, that if they tell enough lies then the truth will stay hidden.
For the record, there is a list of just a few of the warnings I have made in the last few decades on vernoncoleman.com and in my book How to stop your doctor killing you. To give but one example, when 30 odd years ago I wrote drawing attention to the importance of the immune system in defending the body against cancer I was mercilessly attacked by the cancer industry. Today, of course, they agree with me.
I wonder how many people died because the medical establishment preferred to protect industrial conglomerates rather than look after the interests of patients.
Modern clinicians may use scientific techniques but in the way that they treat their patients they are still quacks and charlatans, loyal to existing and unproven ideas which are profitable and resistant to new techniques and technologies which may be proven and effective. Amazingly, most well-established medical procedures have never been properly tested.
The fact that a doctor may use a scientific instrument in his work does not make him a scientist – any more than a typist who uses a word processor is a computer scientist. The scientific technology available to doctors may be magnificent but the problem is that the application of the scientific technology is crude, untested and unscientific. Superstition and prejudice are commonplace and it isn’t difficult to find examples illustrating the ineffectiveness of modern medical science.
If doctors used truly scientific methods when treating their patients they would happily use whichever form of treatment seemed to offer their patients the best chance of recovery. And they would use scientific methods to compare the effectiveness of orthodox methods (such as surgery, drugs and radiotherapy) with the effectiveness of unorthodox methods (such as diet).
Doctors do not do this.
When patients recover from cancer while or after receiving orthodox medical therapy (usually one or more of the triumvirate of surgery, drugs or radiotherapy) doctors invariably claim that those patients have got better because of the therapy they have received. Doctors are always quick to claim the credit when they can.
However, doctors are far more sceptical when patients recover from ‘alternative’ or ‘non-orthodox’ remedies. When patients recover while or after receiving unorthodox therapy they are usually said to have recovered ‘in spite’ of the treatment they have received. Patients who get better after unorthodox therapy are said to have been misdiagnosed or to have made an ‘unexplained and spontaneous recovery’. (No patient in history has ever made an ‘unexplained and spontaneous recovery’ while or after receiving orthodox therapy). Patients who survive for five years after orthodox treatment are officially cured but after alternative therapy they are said to be merely in remission, awaiting a relapse.
And although orthodox doctors are invariably derisive when alternative therapists write about individual patients or describe isolated case histories, this is exactly what orthodox doctors themselves do. It is not at all uncommon for medical journals to contain articles and letters based upon experiences with one or maybe two patients.
Indeed, physicians and surgeons invariably base their own treatment programmes upon their own personal experiences and upon their own (usually completely unscientific) views of what will be best for a particular patient.
For example, despite the availability of clear evidence showing the efficacy of diet, stress control and modest exercise in the treatment (as well as the prevention) of cardiac disease, most doctors still insist on treating all their heart patients with either surgery or drug therapy. And despite the existence of other, far more logical options, most doctors still insist that the only way to treat cancer is to attack it from the outside – rather than combine orthodox treatment with helping the body to heal and protect itself.
If orthodox medicine was truly scientific then patients with the same symptoms would all receive the same treatment. They don’t. There are almost as many different treatment programmes on offer as there are doctors in practice. If a patient who has been diagnosed as having a particular type of cancer visits three doctors then it’s a pretty safe bet that he or she will be offered three quite different types of advice. The survival of individual patients sometimes seems to be more a matter of luck than a matter of science. Doctors simply don’t understand why when two patients are given a treatment one will die and one will live. It never occurs to them that there may be some other factor involved and that the death of one patient and the survival of the other may be quite unrelated to the medical treatment which was given.
The logical, scientific approach to any problem is always to tackle the cause rather than the symptoms. If your car has a leaky radiator hose it makes far more logical sense to replace the leaky hose than to keep on filling up the radiator with water. If your house roof is leaking it is far more logical to repair the leak than to put out a bucket to catch the drips.
Good doctors do follow this logical approach.
But there are more bad doctors than good ones.
And when the bad doctor sees a patient with indigestion he or she will simply prescribe an antacid remedy – knowing that it will temporarily relieve the patient’s symptoms – and then send the patient away.
In contrast, when a good doctor sees a patient with indigestion he will want to find out what is causing the indigestion. He will investigate the patient’s diet and other lifestyle habits in a search for a cause. And he will want to deal with the cause of the symptoms, rather than the symptoms themselves.
I am invariably described as ‘controversial’ for outlining these facts (these days anyone who tells the truth can expect to be described as ‘controversial’) but the figures proving that doctors are now a serious health hazard are incontrovertible. Every year, in the US alone, millions of patients are either killed by prescription drugs or suffer such severe side effects that they are permanently disabled or required long hospital stays. And, remember, these figures don’t include deaths or serious problems caused by misdiagnosis, surgical errors (such as the removal of the wrong organ or limb) or problems caused by unreadable handwriting on prescriptions.
Nor do these figures include the vast numbers of errors which are covered up. How many millions of patients are made ill by treatment and then told by their doctor that it is their original disease which is causing their symptoms? How many millions of grieving relatives are told that their loved one died because he or she was killed by the treatment he was given?
If drugs were only ever prescribed sensibly and when they were likely to interfere with a potentially life-threatening disease then the risks associated with their use would be acceptable. But all the evidence shows that doctors do not understand the hazards associated with the drugs they use and frequently prescribe inappropriately and excessively. Many of the deaths associated with drug use are caused by drugs which did not need to be taken.
It has for decades been accepted that at least 40% of all the people who are given prescription medicines will suffer uncomfortable, hazardous or potentially lethal side effects. I say ‘at least’ because, for a variety of reasons, the vast majority of doctors never admit that their patients ever suffer any side effects.
Because the real figures about drug hazards are hidden most patients assume that drugs are safe to take, will act in a predictable, effective way and are of recognised quality and standard. None of these assumptions is correct and none of the thousands of the drugs which are available satisfies these criteria. Patients who take drugs are taking a risk; they are often taking part in a massive experiment and by taking a medicine may become worse off than if they had done nothing. To make things worse no one knows exactly how big the risks are when a particular drug is taken.
The medical profession, the drug industry and the regulatory bodies all accept that the hazards of using any drug will only be known when the drug has been given to large numbers of patients for a considerable period of time.
Astonishingly, despite the hazards associated with their use, drugs are controlled less in their development, manufacture, promotion, sale and supply than virtually any other substance imaginable – with the possible exception of food.
One of the major reasons for the disastrously high incidence of problems associated with drug use is the fact that the initial clinical trials, performed before a drug is made available for all general practitioners to prescribe for their patients, rarely involve more than a few thousand patients. Some initial trials may involve no more than half a dozen patients.
However, it is now well known that severe problems often do not appear either until at least 50,000 patients have taken a drug or until patients have used a drug for many months or even years. Because of this, a huge death toll can build up over the years. Drug control authorities admit that when a new drug is launched no one really knows what will happen or what side effects will be identified.
Doctors and drug companies are, it seems, using the public in a constant, on-going, mass testing programme.
And the treatments for many common diseases such as arthritis, backache and allergies such as hay-fever frequently provide inadequate relief and often cause adverse effects which are far worse than the original complaint.
Although the drug industry can be blamed for failing to perform adequate tests on the drugs which they put on the market it is only doctors who can be blamed for overprescribing and for the inappropriate prescribing of drugs.
Doctors kill far, far more people than the common types of cancer. They kill far more people than cigarettes.
When I mentioned in a radio broadcast that one in six patients in hospital is there because they have been made ill by a doctor a representative of the medical establishment did not try to argue the point but merely pointed out, with apparently genuine pride and absolutely no sense of the absurd, that this at least meant that five out six patients in hospital were not there because they had been made ill by a doctor.
It’s genuinely difficult to know where to start (or stop) when trying to work out why doctors now do so much harm.
Some of the shortcomings are very basic. Most doctors simply don’t listen properly to their patients. They hear a symptom, reach for the prescription pad and scribble out a pharmacological solution. Prescribing a drug has become a reflex. Doctors rarely do home visits and know little about their patients’ lives. Most doctors behave as though they are simply marketing men for the pharmaceutical industry; scribbling away their lives, and their patients’ lives, to ensure that the industry which owns the medical establishment continues to thrive and make enormous profits.
Most patients probably assume that when a doctor proposes to use an established treatment to conquer a disease he will be using a treatment which has been tested, examined and proven. But this is not the case.
Some years ago the British Medical Journal reported that there are ‘perhaps 30,000 biomedical journals in the world, and they have grown steadily by 7% a year since the 17th century.’ The editorial also reported that: ‘only about 15% of medical interventions are supported by solid scientific evidence’ and ‘only 1% of the articles in medical journals are scientifically sound’.
Things are no better now than they were.
What sort of science is that? How can doctors possibly regard themselves as practising a science when six out of seven treatment regimes are unsupported by scientific evidence and when 99% of the articles upon which clinical decisions are based are scientifically unsound?
Most medical research is organised, paid for, commissioned or subsidised by the drug industry. This type of research is designed, quite simply, to find evidence showing a new product is of commercial value. The companies which commission such research are not terribly bothered about evidence; what they are looking for are conclusions which will enable them to sell their product. Drug company sponsored research is done more to get good reviews than to find out the truth.
Sadly, many modern so-called scientists are prepared to ‘alter’ their results if their experiments do not turn out as planned or if a drug company asks them to.
It is perhaps not surprising that it is now estimated that at least 12% of scientific research is fraudulent.
The tests and investigations which doctors use to help them make diagnoses are also unreliable and the likelihood of a doctor accurately predicting the outcome of a disease is often no more than 50:50.
Two pathologists carried out 400 post-mortem examinations and found that in more than half the patients, the wrong diagnosis had been made. This presumably also means that in more than half the patients the wrong treatment had been given. And since modern treatments are undeniably powerful, it also presumably means that a large proportion of those patients may have died not because of their disease but because of their treatment. The two pathologists reported that potentially treatable disease was missed in one in seven patients. They found that 65 out of 134 cases of pneumonia had gone unrecognised while out of 51 patients who had suffered heart attacks doctors had failed to diagnose the problem in 18 cases.
Today’s medical training is based upon pronouncement and opinion rather than on investigation and scientific experience. In medical schools students are bombarded with information but denied the time or the opportunity to question the ex-cathedra statements which are made from an archaic medical culture. The drugs and tools which are used may be devised with the aid of scientific techniques but the way in which they are used is certainly not scientific.
If medicine was a science then when a patient visited a doctor complaining of a symptom he would be given the best, proven treatment, a treatment that was quite specific for the disease. Treatments for specific symptoms would be predictable and diagnostic skills would, because they would be based on scientific techniques, be reliable within certain acknowledged limits. But that is not what happens. In some areas of medicine specialists operate in a way that would be considered a variety of pseudoscience if the practitioners did not happen to have qualifications recognised by the medical establishment.
The inescapable conclusion from all this evidence is that today’s doctors and nurses should carry a health hazard warning stamped on their foreheads. Each hospital should have a health warning notice hung over its entrance.
But our politicians – terrified of taking on the medicine ‘industry’ – have done nothing to try to improve the quality of care provided to patients. The politicians have bent over backwards to keep the drug industry happy.
The incidence of doctor-induced illness is now endemic throughout the western world. It is impossible to quantify the overall size of the problem precisely – particularly in general practice – for the very simple reason that the vast majority of doctors just don’t bother to record or report drug side effects (even though the evidence shows that 40% of patients suffer side effects while taking drugs). But there is no doubt that doctor-induced illness is now one of (if not the) greatest cause of illness in most so-called ‘developed’ countries. Well over a million patients a year are admitted to English hospitals because they have been made ill by doctors. Coleman’s First Law of Medicine is that if a patient receiving treatment develops new symptoms then the new symptoms should be assumed to have been caused by the treatment they’re receiving.
You probably make some effort to ensure that the tyres on your car have plenty of tread, that the brakes are in good, working condition, that you wear a seat belt and so on. Everyone knows that motor cars can kill, and so sensible individuals do what they can to protect themselves.
And yet far more people die each year as a result of medical ‘accidents’ as die as a result of road accidents.
Even good, kind, conscientious doctors – who are honest and honourable, who care about their work and who do their very best for their patients – can still make people ill. And can still kill people.
For example, many of the problems caused by doctors are a result of prescription drug consumption. When he writes out a prescription, your doctor has to rely upon the honesty and integrity of the drug company making the product he is prescribing. And since most drug companies do not operate in an honest way, that is a fundamental error of trust which can lead to many problems. You suffer, as a patient, from his trust in the drug company. To that you must add the fact that all patients are individual and different. A drug which has proved effective and safe when given to 99 or 999 patients may still prove dangerous and deadly when given to the 100th or the 1000th patient. Every patient who takes a drug – even a well tried drug – is participating in an experiment. Most doctors either do not understand this or they forget it in the heat of daily practice.
The bottom line is that however good your doctor is – and however much you may trust him or her – you must share the responsibility for your own health and you must know when to tell your doctor if you think that the treatment with which he or she is providing you could be causing problems.
There is nothing new in the fact that doctors can kill people.
But, since we now spend more on health care than ever before, and since the medical profession is apparently more scientific and better equipped than ever before, there is a savage irony in the fact that we have now reached the point where, on balance, many well-meaning doctors in general practice and highly trained, well-equipped specialists working in hospitals may do more harm than good. The epidemic of iatrogenic disease which has always scarred medical practice has been steadily getting worse and today many of us would, much of the time, be better off without a medical profession.
Through a mixture of ignorance, incompetence, prejudice, dishonesty, laziness, paternalism and misplaced trust many doctors are killing more people than they are saving and they are causing more illness and more discomfort than they are alleviating.
I doubt if anyone knows just how much damage the overprescribing of drugs does to the human immune system, for example.
It is true, of course, that doctors save thousands of lives by, for example, prescribing life-saving drugs or by performing essential life-saving surgery on accident victims, for example.
But when the medical profession, together with the pharmaceutical industry, claims that it is the advances in medicine which are responsible for the fact that life expectancy figures have risen in the last one hundred years or so they are wrong.
Orthodox medical practitioners like to give the impression that they have conquered sickness with science but there are, at a conservative estimate, something approaching 20,000 known diseases for which there are still no effective treatments – let alone cures. Even when treatments do exist their efficacy is often in question. Most medical and surgical treatments have never been properly tested.
A former Director General of the World Health Organization startled the medical establishment by stating that ‘the major and most expensive part of medical knowledge as applied today appears to be more for the satisfaction of the health professions than for the benefit of the consumers of health care’.
The evidence certainly supports that astonishing and apparently heretical view. Profits, not patients, are now the driving force which rule the medical profession’s motives, ambitions and actions. Doctors don’t seem to care anymore. The passion has gone out of medicine.
In my view, the biggest single reason why the medical profession is killing so many people is its alliance with the pharmaceutical industry.
The myth that we live long and healthy lives thanks to the drug industry and the medical profession has increased our expectations. We no longer expect to fall ill. We expect a magic solution when we do fall ill. We don’t want to be bothered making any effort to stay healthy because we have been taught to have faith that if we fall ill then the medical men will be able to cure us.
The majority of illnesses do not need drug treatment. But at least eight out of ten patients who visit a general practitioner will be given a prescription (though growing numbers of patients do not take the drugs that are prescribed for them).
As I have shown in many books of mine we aren’t living longer than our ancestors and we certainly aren’t fitter than them either. The figures often quoted by doctors and the drug industry are misleading because infant mortality rates have fallen dramatically. When vast numbers of babies died because of poor hygiene the average life expectation was low. (I explained this at length in my book ‘How To Live Longer’.)
Nor do we live healthier lives than our predecessors. Although we consume greater and greater quantities of medicine than ever before more of us are ill today than at any time in recent history. On any day you care to choose in just about any developed country you care to mention, over half the population will be taking a drug of some kind. At no time in recent history has illness been so commonplace. We spend more than ever on health care than ever but no one could argue that there is any less suffering in our society.
The answer is to learn how to look after yourself; and to learn when you can (and cannot) trust doctors with your life. If a doctor wants you to have a test, make sure it’s necessary. Remember that in nine out of ten illnesses, your body will heal itself. If you have a chronic disease make sure you know as much about it as you can. If the test results won’t affect your treatment, what is the point of the test? If you’re not happy with your doctor’s diagnosis or treatment protocol, ask for a second opinion. And if you are taking a prescription drug be aware of all the possible side effects and remember Coleman’s First Law of Medicine: if you develop new symptoms while undergoing treatment then the new symptoms are probably caused by the treatment.
This script/article is taken from the foreword to Vernon Coleman’s international bestselling book How to stop your doctor killing you, which is available on Amazon as a paperback and an eBook.