Friday, November 14, 2008

Medical Mayhem

This weeks GSPW featured a paper on cheating doctors in private Chinese hospitals. Supposedly, these doctors prescribe medicine when none is needed.

On a similar note, Arnold Kling points out that roughly 66% of doctors support prescribing placebos to patients. I left the following comment at Econlog:
Actually, I think this has more to do with the patient than the doctor.

The patient comes in sick and knows, rather simply, that medicine makes people unsick. He does not know what medicine, how much, or even if any particular medicine will do much of anything for the particular sick he is.

The doctor, on the other hand, has a rough idea of what kind of sick the patient is and, assuming he is correct, knows whether or not medicine makes much sense. Some things, I believe, just need to take their course. But patients do not want to hear that. They came to a doctor. They want to be unsick. And, at least to them, that means medicine.

If the doctor does not prescribe SOMETHING, the patient may get a second opinion. And if that doctor prescribes something, he is likely to capture a new patient. To prevent this from occurring, doctors prescribe placebos.

...if only there were a way to credibly signal to your doctor that you will not be going elsewhere regardless of the treatment strategy he chooses.
How would you feel if you found your doctor had prescribed a placebo? Do you think this could be the best treatment strategy in some situations?

No comments: