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mon t m e d s o c .c om

generally performed only in cases of medical necessity, bills
such as these have appeared across the nation. The claims
that defenders of these bills make - namely, that no medical
reason ever exists for ending a mid-second or third-trimester
pregnancy - are not supported by credible evidence, yet
these bills often pass, and are only undone by action of the
courts. This begs a disturbing but important question: does
expert opinion even matter anymore? Do facts?
I'm saddened to say that to many, they do not. The
growing public disdain for intellectualism in general and
educated professionals in particular threatens not only this
nation's health, but its continued existence. If the process of
intense schooling and training to gain mastery over a subject
such as medicine or law no longer counts when set against
one's beliefs and feelings, where does that leave us? Do
physicians, whose profession sits at the intersection between
art and science, have a responsibility to try and right the ship?

A Public Health Crisis: Sitting on the Sidelines
The answer, in my opinion, is a resounding "yes." While
the concept of paternalism is no longer considered an
acceptable approach to patient care, physicians can, with an
eye on both individual belief and autonomy, steer patients
back towards respect for evidence and science. From the
rigorous trials which inform our use of medications and
tests to simple but proven concepts such as maintaining a
healthy diet and engaging in exercise, we can begin to put a
dent in the idea that educated professionals are 'elitists' who
care nothing for the trials of those who have not obtained an
advanced degree. By helping patients see that following their
doctors' advice will improve their own lives, we may just open
the door to challenging erroneous beliefs.
Examples are myriad. Abortions don't cause breast
cancer. Homosexuality is not a choice. Climate change is
real, and a direct threat not only to human health, but our
continued existence on this planet. Pollution is dangerous,
and while jobs, the economy and prosperity are important
to everyone, so is clean drinking water and reducing our
exposure to a sea of carcinogens. Corporations are not people,
and decisions about women's health should be dictated by
patients and physicians, not politicians pandering for reelection or CEOs imposing their religious beliefs on their
employees.
Some of you will undoubtedly read this and think 'he's
just a liberal elitist.' Some will be offended by my pro-choice
views. Those are opinions, and I respect them. But the facts
I've laid out in this column are true, and simply dismissing
my statements due to personal disagreement won't change
them.

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We've heard a lot these days about 'individual responsibility'
and 'making hard choices.' Both of these things are important,
but so is objectivity, and the role it plays in the foundation of
science. Matters of the heart and spirit, certainly no less sacred,
need not be at war with intellectual pursuits. Rather than
stand silently by while our nation splits between the warring
camps of real facts and alternative ones, physicians have a
unique opportunity to begin to restore trust in our crumbling
institutions. Not by running for office or preaching about social
justice (for those of us who do), but by listening to our patients,
one voice at a time. And when we encounter the inevitable
disdain, the sneering remarks about 'white-coated elitists', we
should respond with compassion, explore the roots of their
distrust, and show them they have no reason to question our
motives. Otherwise, we're just going through the motions,
allowing outside forces to peddle information we know to be
false, or even harmful. Or worse, hiding behind the fear of
being judged.
I can't accept that. And neither should you. We won't
always succeed, but we should certainly try. Our patients are
worth the effort. And just maybe, on a broader level, we'll begin
to turn the tide.

MCMS PHYSICIAN 7 SPRING 2017


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