Hope-Milking: An Ugly Medical Curse

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Mrs. Patel sounded very happy, almost on the verge of shouting: “Dr. Deshpande, did you see the new video? Finally there is a cure for my husband’s condition. I have already booked tickets, we are travelling tomorrow”.

I had seen the video. I knew from experience that it would not help her husband much. Yet, the words in that video advertisement were framed so effectively, that even a low-brainer medic would be confused about the truth.

The effects are indeed magical, but not for the patient. By the time the hype of such viral videos dies down, thousands of patients have already bought the product, earning unprecedented fame and/ or funds to the makers of such videos. This has become an excellent tool for attracting patients under a false pretext.

There are many medical conditions which have no treatment or cure. This is saddening, and we doctors face the justified frustration of such patients and their relatives many times every day. We are also equally eager for cures. It is taxing and nerve-wrecking to hear patients vent the pain of the same issues repeatedly for years. But for the sake of the patient, we must listen, be patient, and keep reassuring them with compassion and sympathy. But we must never lie to them. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Transfer the patient to our hospital, we will manage better” some doctors say, get the patient transferred under themselves, and after a lot of ‘costly surgery, treatment etc.” simply tell the relatives that it was all inevitable and unfortunate. Wrong assurances and milking the hopes of such critical patients is uncalled for, and to a great extent, unethical. Add the tags like “cheap, charity and low-cost” to healthcare, and such a trap is complete. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Many videos and articles claiming “dramatic relief, cure”, “new technology”, “diet therapies”, “herbal treatments”, “sexual weakness / ED”, “weight loss”, “sugar control”, “stem cell therapy in unindicated medical conditions” “hair growth” etc. circulate and become viral. Both educated and uneducated patients who hope for a better life fall pray to such hidden advertisements. Months or years later, they realize that their condition is the same or worse. Some develop adverse effects like damaged kidneys, liver or brain, and never realize that it was related to unscientific decisions from years ago.

This is medical pickpocketing.

The saddest part is this: many patients respond to any medicine or procedure / surgery (placebo effect) for a short while, and some with psychosomatic illnesses indeed feel a ‘dramatic relief’. Those who do not benefit seldom come forward. Such medical ads never show how many patients suffered side effects, how many did not respond, or what are the hidden costs. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is sad that this “Hope-Milking” disease has spread rampantly among all streams, including allopathic / modern medicine. Some doctors now publish videos of their own personal discoveries, formulas, potions, without declaring contents, without scientific studies (or with mock/ manipulated scientific trials), as if there is no FDA, Medical Council, experts in respective fields or any such authority. There is no difference between such doctors and roadside herbal medicine quacks or different Babas / Maulas selling ‘magic medicines’ to a predominantly illiterate nation.

Besides being unethical, such practices falsely convey “I know better than all other experts in my field”. That is cheap! Medical councils, doctor’s bodies and IMA should strongly discourage such practices, from all genuine and other streams of medicine.

After a few weeks. Mrs. Patel followed up. “Dr. Rajas, I am sorry. We were carried away by the ad. Initially he felt better, we spent a lot of money, but now we realize it was too costly, it had a lot of side effects and it was not a permanent cure as advertised. We were happy with the earlier treatment”.

Just as I walked in the hospital lobby, I saw a large crowd in front of the television set. National news bulletin was on, dead soldiers and their crying families were being shown. Simultaneously running were the ads by different quacks. A lady was asking her son to jot down the number of a man who claimed to “completely cure all heart diseases with a single medicine”.

I prayed for the health of whoever her patient was, and walked ahead. I had a lot of genuine medical work to attend.

Written in the best interests of my beloved patients and profession.

Please share unedited.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: My dear patients, before falling pray to any “new dramatic medical treatment/ cure” traps or ads, please consult your regular doctor and confirm authenticity. You can also visit authentic medical sites like Medscape, Medline Plus, National Institute of Health (NIH), Mayo Clinic, UpToDate to know about the latest approved treatments for all medical conditions. Do not rely upon blogs, support groups, viral videos or personal/ individual sites for making treatment decisions. This can be very dangerous.

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