Says Who?

When our firstborn was an infant someone gave her a turquoise onesie embroidered with the admonishment to Question Authority. Back then I thought it was a subversive sentiment aimed at moi and was relieved that Emily would outgrow the ensemble by the time she was reading.

Now I understand that the message really was geared towards everybody. And it’s wildly important.

Just because someone says something with certitude doesn’t mean it’s true. eg. see Donald Trump.

I should have realized this as it was a lesson my father tried to instill (albeit maybe a tad too subtly.) Dad used to encourage his offspring to make up Scrabble words — with the caveat that we be able to define our concoctions with conviction.

I still find myself playing the game.

Recently I coined expertizmo (note the points: x for 8 and z for 10) signifying the cocky failure to disclose that things are actually pretty fluid in the conclusion department of scientific theory.

This is especially rampant in medicine.

What’s standard of care now is not necessarily what’s going to be practiced next week. Case in point: mercury.  Back in the day, the stuff that currently requires hazmat suits to clean up was prescribed to treat everything from fevers to bedbugs. And the cancer diagnosis that I was given some years back in which mastectomy was recommended as a prophylactic treatment option (uh, no thanks), is now considered over-treated.

Smug pronouncements abound in parenting circles, too. As a newly-minted grandmother, I’ve witnessed how expertisizmo practiced by the Do-This/ Not-That brigade provides (conflicting) advice on everything from co-sleeping to pacifiers. It’s all enough to make your head explode.

Maybe if everything was presented with a preamble that includes both what the advice is actually based on, as well as an acknowledgement that it is likely to be ephemeral, then making truly informed decisions might be easier. In the meantime control what you can (without being or making anyone else) crazy. And let go of the rest.









*mercury pic

4 comments: On Says Who?

  • Oh boy oh boy oh boy!!!! I’ve been yelling about this for years. I think it’s not so much the researchers or clinicians these days as the media. The media take a balanced report of a new medicine that is known to help x% of patients and present it as The Truth. I’m n any case, thank you! for your caveat!!

    • Not to mention the TV ads for miracle drugs — with egregious side-effects listed in sing-song at the end of the commercials…

      • But . . . how else can we learn about new medications?? My doctor doesn’t let me know that there is a new drug available, for example, for migraine. I learn about it from a friend or from TV. What if she had a data base and could e-mail all her migraineurs: “There is a new medication for migraine. Please call or e-mail me to make an office or phone appointment to discuss whether it is appropriate for you.” In my dreams, eh?
        The tags onto the ads, of what BIg Phrma is pleased to call side effects, “including death,” are hilarious. Sort of . . .

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