Go click it.
Regardless, for those few of you who still have no idea what I mean, here is the coffee mug in question:
I've written about exactly this issue in The Daily Beast (it was the first article I wrote, in fact), and I've continued talking about it to whomever is unlucky enough to listen to me. So it was with great amusement that I came across and tweeted this picture yesterday, and it was with the same great amusement that I showed it gleefully to Mrs. Bastard, who was just as amused as I.
Not everyone is amused, however.
Some people are taking it way too seriously, like Dave deBronkart, also known as "e-patient Dave", a blogger at e-patient.com. This morning my wife forwarded me a piece that Dave wrote this week titled "The truth about that 'your Googling and my medical degree' mug" in which he says that Googling is not a sign of patients thinking they are doctors, it is a sign of people making themselves "engaged, empowered, e-patient(s)".
Dave quite correctly says that a well-informed patient is a good patient - one that partners with his doctor to come to a decision that is best for the patient. He also quite correctly says that doctors who insist they are right are terrible practitioners, because no one knows everything about everything. I can not and would not disagree with anything Mr. deBronkart said. That is not "the truth" about the mug, however.
What I would disagree with is Dave's main point - that patients who use google to learn about their condition are necessarily well informed, and therefore better patients. They may be, but it all depends on where they get their information.
As an experiment, I googled "colon cancer". It took google exactly 0.27 seconds to come back with 14.5 million hits.
But not everyone reads those articles. Googling "colon cancer cure" gave me 1.75 million hits, and there it was on page 2: "Lindsey: Cures Colon Cancer With Cannabis in 48 days". Of course this is a much sexier title than "Treating bowel cancer", and of course the headline is designed to encourage clicks. And what the article does is chronicle a woman's story of conventional colon cancer treatment with surgery and evil toxic Big Pharma chemo, followed by a supposed cure with cannabis oil.
Unfortunately not everyone is going to look up conventional (read: effective) treatment of colon cancer, because conventional is the alternative to the evil toxic Big Pharma chemo that people are looking for these days. Going one more step down the rabbit hole, I googled "colon cancer alternative", which yielded nearly 7 million hits. And that's where the real BS starts:
- 8 Steps For Fighting Colon Cancer Naturally
- Colon Cancer natural treatment and prevention with diet, food, vitamins, supplements, and herbs
- Cancer Treatments The Media Never Talks About Could Save Your Life
- Colon Cancer and Enzyme Therapy
- 10 Natural Cancer Treatments/Hidden Cures
The internet is truly a wonderful cache of medical knowledge, full of useful information. But it is also a vast wasteland of pseudoscience, questionable practices, and outright bullshit. What makes it so dangerous is that many people can not tell the difference.
Do I discourage my patients from researching their conditions? Absolutely not. Well-informed patients are almost always easier to talk to (and by extension easier to care for). But I always refer patients to reputable websites, and advise them to avoid questionable sites.
And Natural News should be avoided like the plague.