WORRIED SICK: A PRESCRIPTION FOR HEALTH IN AN OVERTREATED AMERICA by Nortin M. Hadler (Caravan/Univ. North Carolina Press, June,2008) and OVERTREATED: WHY TOO MUCH MEDICINE IS MAKING US SICKER AND POORER by Sharon Brownlee (Bloomsbury, January, 2008)
Tim Russert is dead. Wiped out and gone. Although doctors knew he had heart disease, they didn’t realize it was fatal. Like more than the men felled by fatal heart attacks, Russert had no chest pain. A diabetic, he was overweight.
In 1998, a CT heart scan found Russert’s calcium was 210, which meant his risk of a heart attack was high. Should he have had an angiogram? His cardiologists didn’t think so. If the angiogram had shown the clots in Tim Russert’s vessels, would bypass surgery have saved him?. Even after his death, doctors differed on what an angiogram would have indicated. After his death, his internist asserted, “The number one predictor of mortality is waist circumference.” Was that all?
A week after Tim Russert’s death, Drs Ezekiel Emanual and Victor Fuchs published an article in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) deploring “The Perfect Storm of Over-utilization.” Arguing for reducing overutilization to control costs by altering the combination of physicians’ training and attitudes and patients’ wishes and worries, vaguely they say “The best hope for reining in costs is to devise financial incentives for physicians and patients that result in greater health value.”
In the same vein is Sharon Brownlee's book,OVERTREATED - Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker And Poorer (Bloomsbury Press, December, 2007). Brownlee argues that “much of mainstream medicine's therapies and treatments are never double-blind tested and the financial structure of the current system is literally killing people.”
Worse yet is Nortin M. Hadler’s new book WORRIED SICK: a PRESCRIPTION FOR HEALTH IN AN OVERTREATED AMERICA ( Caravan/University of North Carolina Press, June, 2008). Hadler’s diatribe s should not be confused with Arthur Barsky’s book of the same name, WORRIED SICK: Our Troubled Quest for Wellness ( Little Brown, 1988). A legion of other polemics on “overtreatment” ignoring undercare crowd the web sites on staying well.
Claiming “they,” doctors, “health“ providers, even medical writers like me can make us sick with worry., these worry wart writers stagger readers’ imaginations.
It’s up to you. Which would you rather? Be worried sick? Or dead? And would a cacophony of medical advisors, positive and negative, keep you well (or well-er)? Maybe yes, maybe no.
Still, fair is fair. Warnings are in order. Books like Hadler’s and Brownlee’s, articles like Emanuel’s are hazardous to your health.
From our point of view (a blogger's privilege), worrying sick is better than dying young. Could Tim Russert’s life have been saved by early, aggressive medical action? .. Like their patients, doctors differ. Some are aggressive, some more passive. Everyone has a point of view. That’s why there are books. And blogs like this one. Read them and see for yourself.
But reading and warnings aren’t all we need. The night Tim Russert died, we had dinner with a Pulitzer Prize journalist. Shaken by Russert’s death, my pot-bellied husband and our girthy dinner companion skipped bread, potatoes, dessert.
Until the next day. When the brownie brigade started marching again.