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Why You Can’t Trust Your Doctor

I have a friend who underwent surgery about two years ago. As a builder, he had a very physical job and unfortunately developed a severe chronic pain in some of the vertebrae of his neck. After consulting with a number of medical professionals, it turned out that surgery was the only solution to correct his problem.

Being a stickler for detail and the type of person who has always taken it upon himself to ensure he’s getting the very best of care and most appropriate treatments in medical matters, my friend did his due diligence and finally found a neurosurgeon who he felt confident was competent and up to the task. This doctor came highly recommended and enjoyed a lot of praise and excellent reviews from his past patients.

So the surgery went ahead and seemed to all go well, but after some time signs were starting to show that it had not, in fact, been totally successful. The post-operative pain never subsided and in fact it gradually became worse as time went on.

The neurosurgeon monitored my friend’s condition and assured him that it would be fine, it was just that the healing process was taking longer than expected. More time passed and the pain continued to worsen, to the point where my friend could no longer work and was forced to apply for disability benefits.

The neurosurgeon ordered MRI scans of my friend’s neck and again proclaimed that all was well, insisting that the pain was all in his head (as in, mental), despite by friend’s insistence that it was real.

In frustration my friend finally located yet another neurosurgeon, who again, came highly recommended, for a second opinion. Upon explaining his situation, my friend was immediately asked by the doctor whether he had brought in his CT scan results. When my friend explained that he had his MRI scan results and had never had any CT scans done of his neck, the doctor was shocked.

He explained to my friend that a CT scan was the only real way to see what problem was causing the pain, given the condition and location, and that an MRI scan was virtually useless in this case, adding that his previous neurosurgeon should have known that.

The doctor immediately ordered a CT scan done for my friend on the spot, which subsequently showed that the operation had not, in fact, been successful and that he had been living for two years with what was essentially a broken neck.

Now, this is a pretty scary story and of course it’s just one case, so in and of itself it doesn’t prove anything. The fact is that thousands of medical procedures are done each day and they can and do go wrong from time to time. Doctors are only human so they’re not infallible, added to which sometimes things just happen that are beyond anyone’s control.

In the case of my friend’s story, however, no mistakes were made per se, but two serious points of concern arise:

  1. That a highly specialized, qualified and experienced medical professional can lack understanding of a fundamental principle like what an appropriate type of scan to do is for a situation in which he specializes.
  2. That a highly specialized, qualified and experienced medical professional can dismiss a patient’s pain rather than diligently investigate the possibility that something went wrong with his work.

Again, this is just a one-off case and by no means do I mean to paint all medical professionals with the same brush. In fact, in my personal opinion the vast majority are excellent at what they do. But it certainly gives one pause to think about just how much trust can and should be placed in individuals, albeit qualified, when it comes to our wellbeing.

Dr. Oz’s Weight Loss Miracles

The main reason for my wanting to write this blog post isn’t my friend’s story however, but a story I came across the other day about another doctor, Dr. Oz.

Despite his huge public following and his impressive medical qualifications, Dr. Oz has become known as the epitome of a charlatan in informed fitness and weight loss circles. And as this story reports, just last week was dragged in front of a commission and slammed by senators for promoting numerous weight loss products on his show that have absolutely no scientific backing whatsoever.

You can check out the story yourself here:

Congressional hearing investigates Dr. Oz ‘miracle’ weight loss claims

In response to the grilling Dr. Oz stated,

“My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience, and when they don’t think they have hope, when they don’t think they can make it happen, I want to look, and I do look everywhere, including in alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them.”

Not exactly the type of attitude one would expect from a medical professional, I’m sure you’ll agree. When a trained, qualified doctor distances himself from scientifically-proven effective and healthy weight loss solutions and instead chooses to promote unfounded “miracle cures”, it’s clear that the welfare of his audience isn’t at the top of his list of priorities, but rather his own self-promotion.

To date the good doctor has in fact pushed no less than 16 so-called “weight loss miracles”, and while his following grows, so too does the obesity epidemic, even among his own followers. Check out this Forbes Magazine article:

Dr. Oz Has Found 16 Weight Loss ‘Miracles’. So Why Is There Still an Obesity Epidemic?

This is yet another example of how we can’t blindly rely on an individual for our wellbeing, despite their qualifications and background.

Weight Loss/Fitness Experts?

Now, it can be argued that for anyone to follow Dr. Oz’s advice for weight loss is foolish anyhow, given the fact that he isn’t a weight loss expert and has no track record of weight loss success stories. So what about individuals who are supposedly qualified in the field?

Sometime last year I learned of a fairly well-known and successful competition coach who used an intriguing system for assessing his clients’ progress and creating workout, nutrition and supplementation programs for them. As a Figure coach who’s constantly searching for new knowledge, I decided to look into this system, simply to see if I could learn something useful from it.

What I discovered was that the system was devised by a very well-known, big-name trainer and is used by quite a number of coaches and trainers worldwide. Despite its apparent popularity however, I felt that the basis for how and why this system supposedly worked sounded highly suspicious to me, and I decided to dig deeper.

Once I put aside the reports from individuals who were followers of this system and therefore naturally biased, sure enough I found that it was indeed based on total nonsense. Numerous unbiased and thorough assessments that were based on science and common sense clearly exposed the flawed and unsubstantiated concepts upon which the system was based.

One trainer who had used it for his clients over several years actually spoke out against the system when he discovered that the clients who used it diligently were experiencing no better results that those who used it only haphazardly. He deduced that it was simply the calorie control and better food choices that was benefiting his clients, and not anything to do with the system itself.

So why would a world-renowned trainer produce such a product, based on nonsense? Simple – for profit.

Is he knowingly misleading and deceiving people? I can’t say. Perhaps he truly believes in his product. But if so it’s only because he hasn’t researched the basis for it thoroughly enough, most likely because it’s more convenient not to.

So Who Can You Trust?

There are numerous reasons behind someone supposedly trustworthy and knowledgeable misleading you or setting the wrong example:

  1. They’re interested in self-promotion.
  2. They’re interested in making profits.
  3. They don’t make the effort to research their subject matter thoroughly (maybe because it suits them no to).
  4. They stubbornly hold on to old beliefs and therefore ignore new evidence and knowledge (a fairly common trait among people).
  5. Simple incompetence.

These are just a few, but there are many, many more.

I’ve personally heard highly successful competition coaches, who train champions, make statements about nutrition that absolutely shocked me with their absurdity. I’ve seen professional fitness competitors promoting fad weight loss products. And the list goes on.

You may ask, “If someone is getting good results for themselves or someone else, why wouldn’t you believe that they know what they’re talking about?” Perhaps the best way to answer that is through a quote by professional bodybuilder, power lifter and competition coach, Dr. Layne Norton:

“People often get results in spite of what they do rather than because of what they do.”

If someone is getting results in some way, it doesn’t mean that’s the way you should do it, or that it’s the right way.

Everyone who participates in The Biggest Loser, for example, loses weight. Does that mean their method of weight loss is right for you? Does it mean that you should copy their methods? Does it mean that their methods are even right (as in, effective and healthy) in general? Far from it.

Please don’t take away from this blog post however the idea that no one can be trusted. There are many great people out there with real knowledge and understanding and doing fantastic work in the often confusing world of weight loss and fitness.

The message I’m trying to get across is simply to be skeptical.

And by that I don’t mean to assume everyone is lying to you, but to always maintain a critical eye on what you read or hear about. Do your own research. Satisfy yourself that something or someone is legit. Sometimes the people who you believe you can trust the most are the ones who, either intentionally or not, will mislead you.

It would be great if you can share your own experiences of being scammed or misled in the comments below. They could help other readers avoid the same painful mistakes in the future!

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Fabian Colussi is a women's Bikini and Figure competition coach for natural athletes, certified personal trainer and gym instructor, and women's fitness consultant. He also has a background in martial arts, is an NLP Master Practitioner, and has a certification in Hypnotherapy. Fabian is a co-owner and co-founder of Million Dollar Baby Fitness.

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