Re: Is Medicine Healthy?

Michael Butler (
Sat, 3 Apr 1999 12:25:06 -0800 (PST)

Thanks to Robin and other participants for a stimulating, non-acrimonious subject of discourse. :) Comments follow.

> >I would suspect that medical care that really makes a difference probably gets
> >to almost anybody. Added money would mostly go to optional or speculative
> >treatment; that might well not improve mortality.
> But maybe most treatment is optional or speculative. If so, maybe we could
> spend 1/3 what we do now and be just as healthy.
> >It's implausible that the medicine we get (as opposed to additional treatment
> >we don't normally get) doesn't help. People get things like appendicitis,
> >pneumonia in the young, and gangrene which were major risks in the past
> >but >very rarely die of them.
> Sure we are lots healthier now than in the past. The question is how much
> credit medicine deserves for that. Lots of other things have changed besides
> medicine.

I think there's a key point here. Consider:

Hereabouts, "medicine" is not solely the province of doctors. Many things are available *over the counter*, *in the water supply* and so forth today.

The triple antibiotic (which, when I dispose of it, contributes to MRSA :\) and Band-Aids (tm) I can buy in the pharmacy without ever seeing an MD can keep a heel blister from becoming infected and killing me (as happened to one of Woodrow Wilson's sons after a tennis game).

Chlorinated water, for all its potential low-level biohazard, and other standard public health measures, again make a difference to me day to day without my going to a clinic.

These thing synergize with the fact that I'm (and many people in the developed nations are) to some degree my own doctor for routine matters.

Plus I'm affluent enough and my bosses are considerate enough to give me a day or more off if I come down with something. I'm not a subsistence farmer who has to keep plowing my rocky fields in the rain while fighting off hostile enteric parasites.

My apologies if all this was already obvious to others.