What constitutes medical misinformation? What’s the difference between something that falls outside the status quo and something that is actually false? Nothing like a global pandemic to make the answers to these questions feel urgent. Cammy Benton, M.D., an integrative medical doctor with over fifteen years of clinical experience, weighs in.
What a Duke University “Science” Survey Reveals About Medical Misinformation
By Cammy Benton, M.D.
Special to JenniferMargulis.net
I happen to love taking surveys. Not sure why as I’m a busy person. I’m a medical doctor. I own my own integrative practice. And I have three young children. But, like I said, I love surveys. So I was intrigued to receive a “Voluntary Survey on Medical Misinformation” from Duke University, which was sent to all North Carolina doctors.
I started working on it right away. It seemed harmless enough. At first. Until a list of topics of “misinformation” stopped me dead in my tracks.
I closed the computer. I no longer felt safe completing this “anonymous” survey since it was connected to my email, which the researchers undoubtedly accessed through our state licensing board. Apparently the study Duke is doing was approved by the Duke Health Institutional Review Board (an administrative body that protects the rights and welfare of human research subjects recruited to participate in research activities) and they are eager to get responses in this “crucial moment.”
What constitutes medical misinformation?
The survey asks how often a patient brings in “medical misinformation” into the clinic. And there’s the first of many rubs. What constitutes medical misinformation? Who decides the difference between “misinformation” and “alternative” information? What is “medical misinformation” anyway? Might it actually be “information a conventionally trained doctor isn’t aware of”?
The word “doctor” comes from the Latin word “docere,” which means to teach. If our mission is to teach and to heal, shouldn’t we be eager for our patients to bring us their questions, ideas, comments, and concerns? Why are doctors being trained to resent patients bringing us information? Why would we label this “misinformation” instead of just seeing it as questions?
When a patient brings me alternative information it’s an opportunity: An opportunity for dialogue and a mutual exchange of ideas. I use this as an opportunity to teach my patients. And, as much as I hope I can teach them, I am eager to learn from them too.
The Duke survey offers a list of options to choose how often we hear about medical misinformation:
(They didn’t even give the discerning doctor the answer choice of “this is BS.” But no matter. It all still sounds fine until you see the choices…)
So what do these Duke University researchers consider medical misinformation?
1. “Vaccines cause harm.”
Listing the idea that vaccines can cause harm as medical misinformation suggests that these researchers at Duke University are unaware of the vaccine injury compensation data. They must not know that $4.3 BILLION dollars have been paid out for vaccine injury to date to Americans who’ve been harmed by vaccines. Access the government’s data report PDF for more information. (I recommend you save a copy to your desktop).
We know that the actual number of vaccine injuries is sadly much higher than the injuries families, after years of waiting, are compensated for. These are not coincidental events. Yet many conventionally trained medical doctors are either unaware of VAERS or are falsely being told that these serious adverse reactions to vaccines—including death—are coincidence. After all, this is a “no fault” court. But I can tell you, both from nearly two decades of clinical experience and from personal experience that the current over-bloated CDC-approved vaccine schedule does cause harm.
- In 2010, a study which was designed to assess the viability of automating the reporting system for VAERS found that vaccination may have side effects as high as 2.6%. If this is correct and we vaccinate approximately 4 million newborns a year, we should expect at least 104,000 injuries per year.
- In 2013 the Institute of Medicine acknowledged there is uncertainty as to whether available data is able to identify all relevant vaccine safety concerns.
- In 2016 another peer-reviewed scientific study found that in children under 5, vaccines accounted for almost 20% of emergency room visits for adverse drug reactions. Based on the data, the researchers estimated that 2.2% of vaccinations result in an emergency room visit.
2. “Statins have harmful side effects.”
Hmm. This is medical misinformation? Arguably statins have been found to be helpful in men with a history of heart attack. Some anti-aging doctors laud them. But just open up the package insert that lists all the risks and you will see that statins, indeed, have many harmful side effects.
In my own patients I have witnessed firsthand how statins can cause harm. I have patients who have suffered memory loss, testosterone deficiency, and new onset type 2 diabetes after starting on statins. These medical conditions resolved upon discontinuation of the statins. Statins are also known to increase the risk of rhabdomyolysis and liver damage.
To assert that statins have harmful side effects is “medical misinformation” is ridiculous. The real misinformation here is the idea that these are a benign class of drugs!
The survey goes on to ask questions about misinformation related to remedies or prevention tips for coronavirus.
Coronavirus information changes daily
This is a novel virus. Information about it is literally changing from day to day. No one knows how best to treat it: not the doctors, not the government, not the alternative health practitioners. God forbid, our concerned patients bring us information that seeks to support the immune system to try to prevent a virus that has caused people to cower at home in fear and governments to shut down economies around the world. Vitamin D? Vitamin C? Glutathione? Despite myriad studies suggesting these can be helpful, nutritional support has now become medical misinformation as well?
The next part of the survey asks doctors to reflect on our educational experience managing patients who bring us new information. Doctors are trained, whether explicitly or tactly, that patients with information that doesn’t fit into our narrow paradigm must be crazy.
I used to believe that too. And it’s true that some patients will certainly bring doctors snake oil suggestions. But now I understand that many of these patients are way ahead of us! Some things I learned to be “crazy” and “quackery” then have turned out to be absolutely true.
Consider this: We doctors used to believe that diethylstilbestrol (DES) was safe for pregnant women. So any patient who brought information showing that taking a synthetic estrogen pill was harmful was dismissed as wrongheaded. But we now know they were right! And we were the ones who were wrong. Taking DES during pregnancy can cause devastating health problems, including aggressive cancer of the genitals, in offspring.
Good doctors listen to and learn from patients
It was because I was willing to listen to my patients that I began to learn about functional medicine. Instead of just treating symptoms, functional and integrative doctors seek out root causes of diseases and chronic conditions. So if a patient is experiencing debilitating back pain, a functional doctor will treat the symptom (the pain) while also getting to the root cause of the pain. We might suggest ergonomic changes to the patient’s work space, for instance, as well as a more anti-inflammatory diet, chiropractic adjustments to realign the spine, and lumbar support when driving in the car.
My patients’ suffering is what has always given me the incentive to learn more. Our job is not to roll our eyes at patients because their ideas, observations, or information contradicts what we learned in medical school and residency. Our job is to help people heal.
All medical doctors understand the power of the placebo effect. Even if we have a knee-jerk reaction to an alternative treatment or idea, if it is not harmful and it seems to be helping, we owe it to our patients to be open minded enough to learn more.
So I am thankful for the “misinformation” my patients have brought to me. Some of it is crazy, for sure. But more often it is this very information that has helped me help them heal.
Dr. Ego, please step aside
We don’t need less “medical misinformation.” What we need is more public demand to tell doctors to get past their egos and realize they don’t have all the answers. On a global scale, America has among the worst health outcomes in the industrialized world. We are in the doghouse for infant wellbeing.
We are #1 among industrialized countries for maternal mortality (with even worse outcomes for black women and children). The United States ranks about #34 in the world for quality of care for chronic disease states. As long as these negative health trends continue, then they can take their education on “misinformation” and shove it in their pie holes.
If we really want to improve America’s health, we the people need to demand that pharmaceutical companies stop funding medical education. And that infant formula manufacturers stop providing nurses breastfeeding “education” (read about how that works to derail breastfeeding and sell more formula in Chapter 7 of this book).
Integrative medicine, a better standard of care
We also need to insist that functional and integrative medicine become the standard of care. And we need to have a humble and healthy respect for our fellow healthcare professionals, including acupuncturists, chiropractors, naturopaths, herbalists, and Chinese medicine experts.
So, I’ll be blunt: Let’s stop being so arrogant and, instead, be grateful for the amazing options alternative practitioners offer—even though they may not be within the scope of our training.
That’s not medical misinformation. That’s healing.
About Dr. Cammy Benton, M.D.:
Dr. Cammy Benton, M.D., is board certified in Family Medicine, certified in Functional Medicine, and boarded in the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. In addition, she’s been on the board of Physicians for Informed Consent since 2015. Dr. Benton travels nationally and internationally to support informed consent in medicine. The owner of Benton Integrative Medicine (which you can also find on Facebook), she has three daughters and two dogs and loves ballroom dancing.
Published: May 21, 2020
Last update: September 19, 2022