Vaccines, magic diets, and getting medical advice on the internet

I think people have become so accustomed to giving and receiving medical advice on the internet (namely facebook, lets be honest here), that it’s come to the point that people really don’t understand what is and isn’t medical advice.

This is a bad thing. It can hurt people. It can even kill people.

The other day, I posted on facebook about getting my MMR booster. As per usual, MOST people understood what I was saying and appreciated it (the post has over 2000 likes), but a few whiny ass bitches (who are male, by the way) are running around facebook calling me names and accusing me of giving medical advice. Now, here is what I actually said in the post:

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As you can see, the advice I actually gave was to talk to your doctor about whether you should get one. This is like the opposite of medical advice. This is referring my readers to the proper professional to determine their medical need. I didn’t even say you should or shouldn’t get one, I said ask your doctor.

This happens pretty frequently and I’ve thought about writing about it in the past (and in fact have touched on it frequently in posts about other topics here and on my facebook page). In virtually every post and video I make, I at some point remind my readers not to take my word for anything, but to ask their doctor about any health issues they may have. Because doctors are, you know, the ones who should be answering those questions.

Here are some examples of medical advice I’ve seen dispensed by well meaning but completely irresponsible people on facebook:

“Your baby may have an ear infection, just put some breast milk in it.”

“Oh, well if you have diabetes you should be eating a ketogenic diet.”

“Vaccines cause autism, don’t let your doctor give them to your kids!”

“Your doctor’s advice is terrible! She’s just a shill for Big Pharma! Don’t listen to her!”

“Oh, it sounds like you have food allergies! You should try this elimination diet!”

“There is a cure for cancer that the government is suppressing! Chemo is toxic! Eat [insert magic diet] and take [insert magic supplement]!”

“You want to stop taking that medication? Just slowly decrease your dose. That’s how I did it, and it worked great!”

Now, I know that most of my readers are quite sane. You are reading this and noting the inherent irony in me being accused of ‘giving medical advice’ for telling people to talk to their doctor about a medical issue, when unqualified people give medical advice willy nilly all over facebook every day and no one says a word.

You know why it makes people mad that I tell my readers to go to their doctor with medical questions? Because they know that if people actually DID ask their doctor, their doctor would give them sound, evidence-based advice. And that sound, evidence-based advice would undermine the illusion of expertise they’ve cultivated online. And if more and more people start to actually go to their doctors with medical questions, well then, all the people doling out unsupported, unqualified medical advice on facebook won’t be able to sell their diet books and miracle cures and magic supplements. Doctors (and scientists) are the enemy of the magic diet/cure/supplement industry. That’s why the magic diet/cure/supplement industry works so hard to villify doctors and foster science-denialism.They’re making a crap-ton of money off of people denying science and looking for magic, and they don’t want to see the well dry up.

So, at the end of the day, in the matter of vaccinations, why should you trust me? You shouldn’t. You should trust your doctor.

If more people got their medical advice from their doctor rather than facebook, we wouldn’t be having a measles outbreak right now. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


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