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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Praise be to emergency medicine

Some readers may have the impression that I am anti-medicine. I certainly am not.

I am a rabid fan of emergency medicine. That is the kind of medicine that you see on popular television programmes like ER (I hardly ever watch it, btw). It wasn't too long ago that a broken thigh bone was close to a death sentence, as was a stroke, heart attack, full body burns or a hard whack on the head. Plastic surgery repairs the most horrific damage and disfigurement.

Last year a not so elderly relative suffered a heart attack in the middle of the night. I have no doubt she would be dead if it were not for the remarkable skills of the doctors and the modern technology of emergency medicine. This is when the powerful anti-clotting drugs and the rest worked their wonders to rescue a life from the brink of oblivion.

What I am not impressed with is the vain and wasteful attempts to then apply the same medical model to prevention of diseases that are largely the result of lifestyle, diet and natural ageing. The very same drugs that are used to resuscitate and stabilise are simply not appropriate for long term use.

So, if we take my relation: She is now on a cocktail of powerful chemicals. Despite all the expenditure on rescuing her, nothing at all has been done to modify those lifestyle, diet and exercise factors that contributed to the heart attack in the first place. Other than the prescriptions and the occasional GP followup, she is as good as forgotten. Until the next one.

One could also validly argue that these very prescription medicines that have been prescribed for prevention actually get in the way of introducing effective prevention measures that are health based.

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