Here’s a list of a FEW things people have refused in medical care from myself and my colleagues for common evidence-based recommendations we as medical providers make: Maternal Group B Strep testing and prenatal penicillin treatment (to prevent life-threatening infections in new babies), Vitamin K shots (to prevent life-threatening bleeding in new babies), Newborn State Screens (to detect and intervene early on devastating diseases of metabolism that can change the longterm outcome if caught early enough), Blood Glucose (Sugar) checks for new babies (to prevent longterm poor neurodevelopment and seizures), Baby Alarm Bands (a.k.a. ‘Hugs’ bands in some places – to prevent someone kidnapping a baby), Vaccines (to prevent, uh, DEATH from preventable illnesses as well as cancer for some vaccines)… The list goes ON and ON and ON…
With the advent of COVID-19, the impact of healthcare in the world and the unfortunate discourse of voices not founded in validated truths further grew the question of distrust of medical recommendations. I get it – there’s a lot of history to this in the United States. However, particularly something interesting about COVID-19 that was astutely pointed out to me by a colleague in 2020:
For the first time in history, healthcare workers and scientists are learning about something at the same speed as the general public. Previously, public dissemination of information lagged behind scientific understanding; but, with the speed of technology, social media and news sources, the public is learning things now at the same time as we are but with generally less nuanced understanding of the foundation of these problems.
I mean, think about it, it’s definitely true. The CDC/WHO and so many public health organizations went back and forth over various ways of managing COVID-19. My opinion on this, is that it fit the way that scientific discoveries work in the first place. It fit the ups and downs of The Scientific Method we all learn in school. We (doctors, scientists and lay (wo)men) have ALL been learning.
Yet, ultimately there are minds much smarter, dedicated and nuanced than mine that are digging deep into the mysteries of the universe and the microscopic levels of existence. Researchers that are dedicated to unraveling and translating the unknown. Peers among peers around the world check each other and I like to think that ultimately, people are good.
So, what’s my point?
A few months ago my garbage disposal at the hotel I had been living in for months started to smell putrid. It was awful. I have spent hours studying science and the human body, but I have never installed or designed or troubleshot a garbage disposal. I called the maintenance man Dave and he came up and explained to me that he was going to throw some oranges in to help with the smell – something about the acidity he said. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but I. Am. Not. Dave. So I trusted him, he knows better than me and deals with this everyday; and, it worked.
I have spent hours and days and months thinking through the elements of trust. Why do people trust what they read on google searches (or watch on Tik Tok…) more than someone that has spent their lives focused on becoming experts in whatever field they’re in. Grey zones exist in every walk of life, and in those instances, we are forced to question advice – it is only human. However, belabored by a friend’s friend once in discussion of COVID-19 and failing at my attempts to explain that a COVID-19 test would not GIVE YOU COVID-19, I tried to reiterate: Your google search, doesn’t quite equate with my medical degree… I guarantee you can’t “do your research” with a google search to make up the decade i dedicated to my craft.