The Stigmatization of Seeking Medical Care

Guest post by Lady Quirky, a nurse practitioner who blogs at Accidental Boxer
Please visit her blog, Accidental Boxer, to read the full version

Social media is a dangerous place for sick people. In our conspiracy theory soaked culture, we are at the mercy of armchair diagnosticians. The stigmatization of seeking medical care has become rampant in our holistic, organic, supplement inhaling society. I do believe there is a role for complementary medicine; however it should not replace sound medical advice.

Every day, I see things that make me cringe. Self-appointed experts who have “done my research,” are perpetuating a cycle of misinformed self-righteousness, the exact thing that they accuse the medical establishment of doing.  Someone posts that they have been diagnosed with cancer. Immediately, there are a plethora of well-meaning supporters.

  • You can fight this!
  • Stay strong.
  • My cousin’s aunt had a friend’s husband’s cousin had that EXACT cancer, she beat it by eating the placenta of a virgin.
  • Take this vitamin, I do. I did not get cancer.
  • Go to Mexico and get peach pits- they are proven to cure cancer.
  • The FDA wants to hide the cure, so they can sell you chemotherapy.
  • Ignore that doctor, you can beat this if you try hard enough.
  • No one dies from cancer.
  • Read this website.
  • Prayer cures everything!
  • Your flu vaccine gave you cancer.
  • Eat organic vegetables. No meat. Vegetarians don’t get cancer.
  • Avoid gluten, it gives you cancer.

A lot of patients out there had crappy doctors. They were not treated as a whole person. As a reasonable, responsible, and rational person, you have an obligation to be an informed consumer. This is contingent on your ability to discern the validity of your sources. If you believe that your healthcare team is corrupt and seeking to harm you, then you have an obligation to seek care elsewhere. If you feel that your provider is inept, you need a new healthcare provider.

Healthcare providers seek to provide safe, effective, and accessible care. Evidence Based Medicine means that your doctor is adding to their knowledge base with continuing education, in order to take the best care of you and your family. They collect information about you (the patient) and use those findings to seek answers. They also understand the difference between correlation and causation.

I have ADHD. I was not diagnosed as a child, and have a complicated educational background as a direct result of no treatment. Now, I am a Nurse Practitioner with an excellent college track record. My son was diagnosed earlier. We knew what to look for. We are not on the same treatment. What worked for me, did not work as well for him. We have utilized medication and dietary changes, along with behavior modification.

There are people (I call them “asshats”) who judge me for my choices regarding my family’s medical care. They did their research. “ADHD is Bullshit!” “ADHD is invented by pharmaceutical companies because they don’t want to cure cancer or AIDS.” If only I were a better mother, I would have sought their advice prior to seeking a professional.

Every situation is unique, and it is dangerous to assume that one person’s story of a cure is applicable to you, or even accurate. Most people use anecdotal evidence as their go to for sharing what they understand about a disease. Frankly, it is a private matter, and it should be left to the patient and their medical team to evaluate.

There are a multitude of factors that must be considered, and a proper risk/benefit analysis should be performed. In other words, are the potential benefits worth the potential risk? This should include treatment options versus opting not to treat.

Here are some tips for offering medical advice:

  1. Just Don’t.
  2. Tell long stories about exactly what they need to do.
  3. Offer the website for the new miracle cure.
  4. Invite them to your prayer circle, which provided many cures.
  5. Judge their lifestyle choices and condemn their morality.
  6. Gossip about others’ personal medical conditions.
  7. Create an action plan for intervention. They really do need your help, they just don’t know it yet.
  8. Actually, go back to the first point (1) unless you are a trained medical professional whose opinion was sought.

Come on everyone, stop assuming you are an expert because you read something on Wikipedia, Web-MD, some blog, or Fox News. Do not use the guy down the street who once knew someone who had a friend who ___ (fill in the blank). Please find a professional.