Blind Faith in Medical Establishment Harms Patients

Chloe Vassot, Contributing Writer

I will remember my second year at Oberlin as a saga of losing faith in all the institutions and forms of authority I once trusted. I may have arrived at this particular realization late, but the harm that occurs in the U.S. medical system, and by the doctors that make up this system, seems exceptionally harsh and reprehensible.

Whenever you see a headline about a new medical study telling you how to live or how to not get cancer or diabetes or heart disease, there is an implied understanding that because these findings are coming from doctors, they are indisputable. I have always been able to trust doctors implicitly since they are the ones that have saved few of my family members’ lives But I might have been an outlier — or just very naïve — as a 2012 survey found that only 34 percent of U.S. adults had “great confidence in the leaders of the medical profession,” and a 2015 study found that 30 percent of women and 23 percent of men admit to lying to their doctor.

Doctors, family practitioners, mental health providers — all of them are privy to the deeply personal information of their patients and have the power to heal or harm. As the ideal of health is based on the thin, able-bodied, white male, the regulation of bodies that do not fit this norm can manifest itself in harmful and oppressive ways. How do we reconcile that doctors and medical professionals are at once people who deeply care about their patients’ well-being and also fallible people not outside larger systems of racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and misogyny? It’s hard to put your life in the hands of someone who you are not convinced respects it.

If medical professionals abide by and believe in the societal norms that dictate which bodies are correct, then the enforcement of harmful body norms of thinness, heterosexuality and gender conformity will routinely be held up as the ideal and perpetuate the marginalization of these bodies that society has decided to mark as deviant because they are different from the supposed norm. This regulation of bodies is the opposite of care, and it makes the term “healthcare” deeply hypocritical in itself.

Capitalism’s overactive role in our pharmaceutical industry is a major contributing source of the medical system’s many harms. Some doctors are, unfortunately, just in it for the money, and there is no helpful statistic one can use to look up the morality and ethics of your doctor.

Doctors working with drug companies to personally profit off of prescribing certain medications — whose prices have been artificially inflated — are the height of unethical. Drug companies can decide who gets to be alive — who gets to spend more or less time on this earth — by withholding medications based on price. Not getting drugs you need doesn’t just mean your days are spent uncomfortably, it could mean you will painfully die sooner than someone with more resources.

The question is: Where do we begin to fix this problem? Is it training doctors to be more sensitive and knowledgeable of LGBTQ healthcare? Is it in, somehow, dismantling the power and oligarchy of the pharmaceutical companies? Or dismantling capitalism as a whole, moving to socialism, finally getting a single-payer healthcare system?

I’m not sure which of these solutions is the most ludicrous or the most realistic, but things must change. Obamacare is here for now; it’s not good enough. We cannot have a society that is even close to just without ensuring equal access to the fundamental right to live. It’s the basis of everything and deserves to be the start of so many movements for justice because of its fundamental necessity.