James Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, was shot by some kook whose name should be forgotten in July of 1881. He died a few months later after suffering terribly – not because of his wound, but because of his doctors. From Wikipedia:
Most historians and medical experts now believe that Garfield probably would have survived his wound had the doctors attending him been more capable. Several inserted their unsterilized fingers into the wound to probe for the bullet, and one doctor punctured Garfield’s liver in doing so. This alone would not have caused death as the liver is one of the few organs in the human body that can regenerate itself. However, this physician probably introduced Streptococcus bacteria into the President’s body and that caused blood poisoning for which at that time there were no antibiotics.
It was 1881, and modern medicine was in it’s infancy…but here’s another article from Wikipedia:
Ignaz Philipp Semmelweiss…was a Hungarian physician described as the “savior of mothers”,who discovered by 1847 that the incidence of puerperal fever could be drastically cut by the use of hand disinfection (by means of hand washing with chlorinated lime solution) in obstetrical clinics.
Problem was – nobody listened to him.
Ironically, he died from an infection he probably wouldn’t have gotten if his physician had washed his hands.
34 years had passed between someone empirically demonstrating that washing your hands before you go sticking them in someone else’s guts might be a good idea – and the 20th President of the United States needlessly dying from this very act.
Semmelweiss’s discovery – and it’s complete and utter dismissal during his lifetime, despite the fact that he empirically proved it by reducing the death rate at the clinic where he worked – is one of the great face-palms of modern medicine.
The reason, as I am to understand it, was two-fold: US medicine and European medicine believed different things at the same time. The other reason is that doctors are, sometimes, a dogmatic and stubborn bunch.
When Semmelweiss told them to wash their hands after working on cadavers and before sticking them into lady parts, they didn’t want to, partly because it was a pain to do, and partly because they never did it before. Never mind that women were dying needlessly, and Semelweiss proved the hand-washing reduced the deaths – they dismissed him, his evidence, and only when Louis Pasteur detailed the germ theory of disease did these doctors begin to see it fit to at least scrape some of the corpse fluid off their hands before delivering children.
Perhaps if Garfield was in Europe rather than in the US, they might have washed their hands – I believe it was coming into vogue there first – partly because of the distance, and partly because research published in languages other than English took time to be translated – if ever. (I listened to a lecture about the history of medicine as told through the great doctors of history – or something like that. I’m too lazy (or busy) to source things – do it yourself if you need solid facts – and please don’t use this as a reference for some other article!)
Along comes Gary Taubes. He writes an elegant, clear, concise debunking of 50 some-odd years of nutritional dogma. How do physicians and nutritionists – highly educated, sometimes brilliant individuals, admit that:
Oh, I see it now – Gary Taubes, you’re not even a doctor, you’re a ‘science writer’ – and you debunked a half-century of conclusions drawn by the finest minds in science. My bad. Oops – hey, fat guy – you remember I told you to eat low-calorie and exercise? I was wrong.
Yeah – right. Here’s the answer. Sorry it’s not the answer you might want to hear, but it’s the only answers for blog readers reading this post:
- There are facts out there now (like maybe…just maybe, low carb is really the best diet advice we currently have) that might not be in fashion in medicine now that might be accepted only decades from now.
- Do your own research – and make your own decisions. Don’t blame your doctor for your health.
- Your doctor is a consultant you pay for. If you are not satisfied – find another doctor.
- Don’t automatically dismiss doctors that don’t agree with you – YOU don’t want to be dogmatic here – nutrition is a very complex subject. Get their opinion. Listen. Your doctor may be right. Gary Taubes may be wrong. Have a dialog and be a partner in your health.
Here’s the really cool thing about this: If you are honest with your doctor, and he sees you control your blood sugar, keep your cholesterol under control without meds, and lose weight – he will have empirical evidence sitting in front of him that perhaps low carb DOES work for some people. And he or she just might mention to another patient something along the lines of: ‘I have had patients who have been successful on a low carb diet long-term – you might want to try it.’
I think I’ve already done this with one doctor. I’m working on my second.
How do you shift a paradigm? One doctor at a time.