A report in the current issue of USA today on the front page has the heading ‘One bacteria, 30,000 deaths’, with the subtitle ‘When Health Care Makes You Sick.’ The story is illustrative for two important terms. The first is nosocomial infection, also known as hospital acquired infection. The second is iatrogenics, which is illness caused by medical examination or treatment. These are real problems for all of us real people..
Health professionals and hospitals do wonderful things that improve health and well-being. I personally have had tremendous support and benefit from physicians, hospitals, medical therapies, and medicines on multiple occasions. But dangers are always there lurking to strike the patient unexpectedly. I have been known to reject medical advice and/or delay medical care, in my own self-interest when I believed the risks outweighed the benefits. These are difficult decisions, but I try to take into account the risks to me..
Often, but not always, it is accepted that the patient has the right to decide for him/herself. Sometimes the patient will make a wrong decision just as the medical system can generate bad choices. For example, Steve Jobs is reported to have regretted delaying surgery for so long while seeking alternative therapy. To me, the point is that no decision maker is right all the time. But in case of doubt, who is better to make the tough decisions than the person personally taking the risks.