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Iatrogenesis and other medical horrors

12/01/2012

I was first introduced to the word “iatrogenic” by Ivan Illich who wrote a primer on the subject, Medical Nemesis, which remains valid to this day. The first line of his book reads:

The medical establishment has become a major threat to health.

The word iatrogenesis comes from the Greek word, “iatros” (“physician”); and “genesis” (“origin”) and refers to health problems and death caused by the medical profession. Yet the term is largely unknown and never enters the public debate on health care. An awareness of iatrogenesis would call into question the mantle of divinity that is bestowed upon the medical profession in cahoots with big pharma, believing that we cannot exist without them.

I am not saying that physicians can’t help the sick and the injured. They can, but so can caring non-medical professionals only much better of that I’m convinced. I’m bothered that the public makes an idol out of the medical profession and is not aware of iatrogenesis – the leading cause of death and that’s ever expanding: termination of pregnancy, assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Let’s not overlook a long and on-going history of dangerous and harmful experimental horrors on humans. History has shown that non-consensual experiments were/are performed on captive people in institutions, those in the underdeveloped world, the poor or foolish of the developed world; particularly people who society regards as “less worthy” – who are largely unable to decline or reject the experiment and few people will ever know about what really happened.

Doctors are regularly called upon to decide who receives medical care, such as kidney dialysis or expensive medication, and who doesn’t. This leads to questions of who is unfit for treatment, and who deserves access to society’s scarce resources, the kinds of questions that led to eugenics and euthanasia. The systematic mass sterilization of those deemed unfit to procreate is such an example.

Consider the ever faster cycling of medical fads: tonsillectomy, Magnesium Sulphate post-MI, Oestrogen for osteoporosis, frontal lobotomy. Consider also the busi­ness model of big pharma that perpetually and creatively invents new medical conditions to match with their drugs. The mass media, of course, is the tool for propagating this information.

Billions of tax-payer dollars are spend annually to educate doctors and fund medical research. Charitable organisations are established to pry even more money from people’s wallets supposedly to fund all kinds of medical research to find cures for anything and everything. We are dealing with an insatiable demand for funds. It’s out of control. Let’s avoid calling it health care – anything but health care which it is not.

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