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Whose Health is It Anyway, Tony?

Weetman's Concept of the Ideal Patient: Docile, Trusting, Uninformed and Sick


Updated December 30, 2012

Whose Health is It Anyway, Tony?
"high health awareness and expectations, information seeking, self-reflection, distrust of doctors and scientists, healthy and often alternative lifestyle choices, and a tendency to explain illness in terms of folk models of invisible germ-like agents and malevolent science."
--Tony Weetman, describing "healthism" in the editorial
And here you have it, folks. When you look at Weetman's list of patient flaws [not surprisingly, many of us would consider them to be compliments!], and you can see that by looking at their exact opposite qualities, you have the "ideal" patient for a doctor like Weetman.

  • Low health awareness, low expectations: That way, you will take whatever you can get, you won't take up too much time, you'll be satisfied with anything a doctor like Weetman says or does, or prescribes, and Weetman and friends don't have any expectation to live up to.

  • Non-information seeking: If you don't seek information or come in with information, then you will be docile, relying on Weetman and his cronies to provide the information. You won't have anything else to compare it to, so you're forced to believe the doctor, accept what he says, and not question it. What a pleasure you are as a patient!!

  • Lack of self-reflection: If you are not self-reflective, then you're probably not spending too much time thinking about whether or not you deserve to feel or live well, you don't think about what you can do to help take charge of your own life and health. Go to the doctor, and accept what is said without question. Weetman loves patients like you!

  • Total trust of doctors and scientists: If you trust doctors and scientists, then you won't have any questions about whether they have conflicts of interest, or whether they being influenced or biased by drug companies, or perhaps, uninformed, uneducated, lazy, or sexist, or whether they are just plain wrong.

  • Unhealthy lifestyle choices: This one is simple. If you make unhealthy lifestyle choices, then you create more business for the doctors and the drug companies. Who's going to write checks to Weetman if they're too busy out there eating well, exercising, not smoking, and taking care of themselves?

  • Alternative lifestyle choices -- Another easy one. If you are doing "alternative" things -- everything from vitamins and dietary changes, to holistic approaches -- and you are feeling better and maintaining your health, then you don't need traditional doctors and drugs as much. Smaller piece of the pie for Weetman and company.

  • Reluctance to explain illness in terms of folk models of invisible germ-like agents and malevolent science: It's funny. There was this doctor back in the 1800s, named Ignaz Semmelweis. Poor Doctor S. found that the patients of midwives -- who washed their hands between delivering babies -- had far less infection and death than patients of doctors -- who didn't wash their hands between deliveries. Semmelweis was run out of town by the medical establishment and even institutionalized for daring to require that doctors disinfect their hands between deliveries. They were "reluctant" to accept Semmelweis' advice. Fast forward to the 20th century, when the medical world was sure that eating spicy food was the cause of ulcers, and patients should drink lots of milk for treatment. Barry Marshall and Robin Warren of Australia totally turned the dogma upside down with the first reports in 1983 that ulcers were caused by a bacteria, helicobacter pylori. Doctors screamed foul-- they were "reluctant" to change the way the thought about the issue. So what about all those ulcer patients who listened to their doctors and stopped eating spicy food and drank milk, and still had symptoms? Must have had somatoform disorders too, right Weetman?

Multiple Meanings and Objectivity

In his editorial, Weetman proclaims that doctors "are practising in the age of postmodern medicine. A cardinal feature of postmodernism is the derogation of objective facts which are the defining characteristic of science and the replacement of scientific certainty with the view that reality can have multiple meanings."

Weetman is just posturing here, because he doesn't HAVE scientific certainty when it comes to thyroid diagnosis and treatment. We already know that when it comes to thyroid disease, Weetman isn't even acknowledging the reality of his own specialty.

Because in thyroid disease, reality does have multiple meanings. A TSH of 4.0 HAS multiple meanings. Exactly what is scientific about THAT? And if a doctor is accepting funding, research money, free samples, patient literature, and cocktail parties from a drug company, exactly what is objective about that?

NEXT: What Can YOU Do About Doctors Like Weetman?

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  6. Whose Health is It Anyway, Tony? A Response to AP Weetman's March 2006 Anti-Patient Editorial in Clinical Endocrinology

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