TREATMENTS seem to abound for almost every illness out there. You can read all about them online. Often enough, someone will be happy to share some morsels on the latest findings. The choices can

be mind-boggling as you try to navigate through the amount of information, along with the misinformation.

There’s modern medicine, traditional medicine, Eastern medicine, holistic treatments and a combination of many other things in between. What do you do? How do you choose?

Talk to your doctors and ask questions. If you know of someone who has experienced something

similar, talk to them too. Just remember that not everything is the same for everyone because

circumstances are different. The treatment they had may not be suitable or successful for you.

According to an article in Psychology Today, written by Allen J. Frances M.D.: “At the very dawn of modern medicine 2,500 years ago, Hippocrates made his more important and robust finding: One third of patients get better without treatment; one third don’t get better even with treatment; and only one third actually benefit from treatment.”

Hippocrates’ caution that mindlessly piling on treatments can have little benefits and instead add substantial number of side-effects to the patient’s already heavy burden of illness.

Unfortunately, Hippocratic humility has increasingly been replaced by the hubris of modern medicine. Many clinicians hold the unconscious and unwarranted assumption that there is a cure for every illness and recklessly add on new treatments where previous ones have failed.

Careless polypharmacy prevails throughout medicine and is particularly prevalent and dangerous in the elderly. Doctors rarely follow the Hippocratic dictum to “First, do no harm”.

Be alert

I have seen this happening amongst some of my family members and friends. Different doctors and specialists had prescribed the same medication that went by different names (trademark names versus generic brands). This resulted in side-effects brought on by an overdose, which fortunately, were not fatal.

Symptoms could be anything from bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, dry mouth, palpitations, sleepiness, drowsiness and confusion to shallow breathing and more seriously, seizures or coma. Loss of balance can cause falls and fractures. How often have you heard of someone suffering a serious injury because they had fallen and usually in the bathroom?

When you feel that something is not right, or that you’re taking too many pills and medications, take all of it to your main doctor and ask for help and clarification.

Sometimes when you’re seeing multiple specialists treating different parts of you and your illness, you run the risk of being given too many medications or duplications. You may wonder why despite treatments and medications, you or your loved one are still not getting better. After you’ve reviewed

your medications with your doctor, you may want to review the treatment and the follow-up routines of what you’re supposed to do on your own.

Finding the balance

Many of us are guilty of not thoroughly and completely following “doctor’s orders”. Trying to do everything you should can be very challenging when you also have to deal with everything else in your life.

Imagine this scenario: You’ve injured your knees and are in a lot of pain. The pain is constantly there and is so intense that it even wakes you up from your sleep. So your sleep is affected. You’re tired, cranky and go through the day feeling quite blur. Pain medication helps only so much.

You’re told to go for physiotherapy. You also have to do specific exercises at home or at the gym on your own. You have a family to care for and a house to run. You need to juggle all this with your job too. You find that there isn’t enough time in a day to do everything. So something has to give. And the thing that’s usually last on your own list is your well-being. Doing everything you have to do is really tough.

Here’s another scenario: Despite the doctor telling you to take it easy for a couple of days and rest after a procedure, you ignore that instruction because you’re restless. Sitting still for couple of days just isn’t in you. You miss your gym routine and running your errands. So you proceed with your day as usual. The treatment fails and you tell your doctor the procedure wasted your money.

It’s always easier and more satisfying to blame someone else when something goes wrong. Sometimes, we just have to take a step back to see what it is that we’re doing wrong. What did we miss? What didn’t we do properly? This can be really hard because admitting fault is painful. Nobody

likes to feel like they’ve done something wrong or that they’ve been negligent and failed.

We need to overcome that fear, identify the problem, own up and make it right. The knowledge and technology are there. Now we need to know how to wield them properly.

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang. You can reach her at

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