Monday, January 17, 2011

Medical Treatment And What My Views Are

     I have a wide variety of friends, with a wide variety of interests and beliefs. Science minded friends, socialists, skeptics, atheists, mildly pagan leaning, new agey holistic health beliefs, and leanings towards anarchistic anti-government sentiments. It is not important, to me that they necessarily share all my ways of thinking, nor I their's. The fundamental principles of social justice, freedom of expression, personal liberty, and equality are a common ground on which our mutual friendships are based, regardless of the individual particulars of why anyone of them has such beliefs.
     I, myself, am an atheist, materialist, socialist feminist, which are all views I actively promote in my day-to-day interactions. I am extremely pragmatic, and even though I do not have a strong science background, I rely on, especially regarding B's health care, evidence based medical intervention. I am also strongly opposed to many current and popular conspiracy theories, specifically those based on faulty or fraudulent understandings of medical research, the lingering bogus belief that vaccines cause Autism being a fine example of that. It has been proven that the doctor behind that skewed his data and produced what was, at best, a faulty result, and at worst, a deliberately misleading and self serving report. The facts are that there is absolutely no link between vaccines and Autism, and all curent research indicates a genetic cause.
     Recently, a friend sent me a link to this video:

      Now, in his defense, my friend only wants to share information he believes is important, and there is nothing wrong, at all, with monitoring and criticising the medical and psychiatric fields. Indeed, any system that monitors and influences the health of individuals and society should be deeply and constantly scrutinized.
   However, this video is produced by Citizens Commission On Human Rights, which sounds all great and progressive and correct, but which is actually a front for the Church of Scientology. I will spare you my well used rant against the Church of Scientology, an out-and-out scam if ever there was one, but I will express my horror and outrage at the absolutely misleading and fraudulent criticisms of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Neuroscience put forth just in the first few minutes of this video. The biggest being that there have been no studies or research, and therefore no evidence, on the causes of anxiety and depression. A simple look at any quality science blog or site will expose that as the outright lie that that is. There as been a great amount of research on the brain and brain disorders, and a large body of evidence based medicine has resulted from that.
     Psychiatry and psychology are what is known as soft science, that is, not all the approaches are based on hard objective experimental data, but more on subjective data and studies to which interpretation and peer review must be applied to generate a consistent and usable outcome. But both are heavily driven and informed by hard science, such as Neuroscience, which does consist of hard data. To deny the useful and beneficial information and treatment that has come out of this science is a huge disservice to both people that suffer from such disorders and society at large.
     I am not going to deny that there have been, and continue to be, bad doctors, bad psychologists, and bad researchers, see the fraudulent report on vaccines and Autism for proof of that, but I believe more strongly in the scientific method and the greater ethical nature of the scientific community than I do in "alternative' sources, such as naturopathy, homeopathy, and certainly more than a group who wish me to pay exorbitant sums to have dead, volcano cooked alien souls removed from my body. And when an alternative treatment is tested, and is shown to work, that's great, but as Tim Minchin says, "Do you know what they call an alternative medicine that's been proven to work? Medicine."

     The point is, there are facts, proven, diagnosable, physically real facts that are revealed by science, and that only change when new facts appear, and these facts are not negated by mysterious belief and purely anecdotal evidence. And the treatments I seek for my daughter will be based on these facts and this research. To me, it is unconscionable to seek other treatments or worse, not treat her, based on any treatment that is not evidence based.
     So, the Scientology video made me mad. Especially as B's doctors and I just this week decided to try her on a second trial of anti-depressants for her debilitating anxiety and depression. Despite all SSRI detractors and conspiracy mongering, the fact is that depression and anxiety are physical/chemical problems, that respond best to both drug therapy in combination with cognitive therapy, and any twit that advises E-Meter testing in conjunction with vitamin therapy as a replacement for actual treatment is, at best, deluded, and at worst, deliberately misleading people. Certainly taking vitamins and eating well can help, but it is NOT a treatment for her. Well, not taking vitamins necessarily. Taking vitamins, for the most part, has been proven to not be necessary for most people, special circumstances aside.
     Do you remember the AIDS Heretics in the '90s? Well, yeah, I learned a big lesson there. You can extrapolate any amount of ridiculous belief and convince yourself it's logical. I won't be doing that again.
     Now, my friend did not know about the recent change in her medicine when he sent me the video, nor that each change or addition to her medicine involves a lot of discussion and consultation, and is never done hastily or without great need. I love my friend, and even like his desire to question everything, but for Apollo's sake, PUHLEEZE, everyone, check your sources before you send me anything meant to inform or persuade my choice in treatment for B, because I am quite well versed, as a lay person, on these subjects.
     One thing we all should all be wary of is own own predilection towards affirming our own confirmation biases, especially when such confirmations are irrational and don't have a solid foundation. And if we're all lucky, we have someone in our lives who isn't afraid to smack us with a logic stick once in a while and force us to be intellectually honest despite ourselves. I'm lucky, Andrew does that for me. I hope my friend saw that I was doing that for him. Certainly, if you read of a treatment or study you think is interesting, let me know and I'll read it, but do some verifying first.

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