As we’ve gained unprecedented access to wide swaths of knowledge, so too have the doors been thrown open to misrepresentations, delusions, and outright lies, ingredients that come together in a particularly toxic form in the various conspiracy theories gaining popularity globally.
“The Internet has become an echo-chamber where we self-select for our preconceived notions rather than challenge them, finding like-minded people who share our beliefs and validate them,” said David Robert Grimes, PhD, a cancer researcher and physicist at Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Oxford. “This might explain precisely why conspiracy theories are flourishing across all sides of the political and social spectrum.”
When conspiracy theories are directed at healthcare, their impact can be considerable. According to survey results published in JAMA Internal Medicine, approximately half of Americans believe in at least one major medical conspiracy, the most widely accepted of which is idea that the US Food and Drug Administration is suppressing natural cures for cancer to benefit drug companies.As they gain cultural traction, medical conspiracies threaten to harm patients on multiple fronts.
“It is so often peddled at vulnerable people, and it is contemptible,” said Grimes, whose writing for The Guardian and The Irish Times debunking popular conspiracies earned him the John Maddox Prize for supporting sound science. “Usually, it’s used to bolster the product they’re pushing, be it cannabis oil or homeopathy. These fictions kill people, and it’s heartbreaking to see their consequences directly.”
Conspiracy theories by their very nature give a sense of control and insight to the powerless.
“Conspiracy theories by their very nature give a sense of control and insight to the powerless. And while the beliefs might be wrong, the animus sometimes has a grain in truth,” said Grimes. “And indeed, few would argue that some of the conduct of drug companies is beneath contempt. Yet this doesn’t render them guilty of all vices. The reality is that the problems we face in healthcare are nuanced, and there are much more shades of gray than black and white.”
In a time when a fractured media landscape and increasingly polarized populace act as an accelerant to conspiratorial beliefs, more and more clinicians may find the need to explain that nuance to sceptical patients.
The public has so many reasons not to believe anything that the medical industrial complex tells it. It is grotesque hubris to hear this hue and cry from medicine about how they are being questioned.
Garbage “research” produces garbage results. Drug companies run everything in medicine. They tell doctors which prescriptions to give and intimidate them by saying “all the other doctors are doing this” which is code word for “law suit protection”. Drug companies flood and overwhelm the market with a new product hoping to sell as many as possible before any problems are discovered. Drug companies sponsor 100% of continuing education for doctors. Drug companies threaten the government with withholding new antibiotics or needed vaccines if the government gets any ideas about supervision or reigning them in.
I hope to see the day the rest of the medical industrial complex stands up to the drug companies. As long as the whole industry is in their pockets I guess that day will not be soon. The reality is that there are many reasons out there for why people do not trust the medical establishment. This article talks about how there is NO connection between HPV immunizations and chronic disease… is this REALLY true?? Are we really to believe that the pharmaceutical companies don’t have any kind of impact on how physicians order medications? There is way too much vested money in the healthcare space and this is why there is a lack of trust. Gone are the days where the medical community’s first priority was to help people and “harm no one”…. it has manifested into a massive for-profit business. Instead of looking at every person that believes in conspiracy theories as a raving lunatic, perhaps try to see their side of things.
The reality is conspiracy is alive and well in this great nation, and to put it all on the “uneducated, foolish, dumb people” is short sighted and vain. Try to connect with humanity; try to understand why they have bad feelings toward the medical establishment.
Is it any wonder that black males are suspicious of AIDS treatment when it is well known that black males were used as guinea pigs in syphilis research and not given any treatments?? Go ahead and look at the number of people who die because of hospital related injuries and infections.
When doctors consistently place themselves as superior to their patients, a huge crevice in the foundation of care forms. Trusting your patients to do as they see fit is important and it may not be something you agree with. OK, so have a conversation with them instead of rolling your eyes and making them out to be sheep herding out to certain death. After 20 years in the medical world, my trust in our country’s medicine is lower than ever. People are herded from hospital to doctor offices to rehab and on and on and on like pieces of meat through a factory.
Meanwhile a sceptical attitude by all patients is a sane attitude.