Mothers Shouldn’t Have to Protect Their Children from Medical Overtreatment


OvertreatmentHospitals and now even doctors’ offices have become dangerous places, especially for the vulnerable young.

The US medical system is geared, quite frankly, to the overtreatment of patients. There are many reasons for this. There is the threat of medical malpractice lawsuits if the doctor does less rather than more. There is the increasing tendency for someone other than your doctor to decide what your treatment will be, whether the hospital, practice administrators, insurance companies, or medical societies. Then there are the financial incentives to overtreat because of the way medical bills are paid.

Case in point: Vermont has one of the most homogenous populations in the nation, so one might expect health problems to be evenly distributed. Yet there is a huge variation in the number of medical treatments people receive. For example, in Middlebury, a now-classic study showed that only 7% of children had their tonsils removed, while in Morrisville, 70% did. This had nothing to do with the condition of the patients—only the doctors’ aggressiveness in removing tonsils, with very little difference in the children’s health after treatment.

Interestingly, a study published in the British Medical Journal revealed that almost half of the doctors who set clinical guidelines for diabetes and cholesterol from medical societies or government agencies in the US and Canada between 2000 and 2010 had financial conflicts of interest.

It’s bad enough when unnecessary treatments are pushed on adults. It’s far worse when doctors try to convince worried parents that their children need more treatment than they actually do. The daughter of an ANH staff member, for example, has ectodermal dysplasia (ED), which is a mild genetic disorder that impacts the growth of her teeth, nails, and hair; in others with the condition, the disease can be more pronounced, affecting eyes, sweat glands, and all sorts of additional areas.

“So far,” she reports, “doctors have tried to convince us to sedate her and have an electrocardiogram on her eyes (at age two!), have a full mouth x-ray to see what is happening with her adult teeth growth (at age four!), and so so on. There have been additional suggested tests, none of which we have elected to have her undergo. ED is a rare disorder, and the docs at Hopkins wanted, I believe, to collect information for their research, none of which would have changed our course with our daughter. By the way, because of the natural health treatments she received, our daughter is now a completely normal six-year-old with no problems whatsoever!”

Vaccines are another area where children are regularly subject to overtreatment. And mainstream medicine keeps developing more and more ridiculous but also potentially dangerous vaccines that children will inevitably be subject to. The latest is a vaccine to prevent smoking—which includes an antibody that is genetically engineered, no less!

The vaccine makes the liver produce antibodies that attack nicotine before it can reach the brain and therefore trigger addiction. The researchers took the genetic sequence of an engineered nicotine antibody and put it into a virus that they had engineered to not be harmful. They also included information that directed the vaccine to go to hepatocytes, that is, liver cells. The antibody’s genetic sequence then inserts itself into the nucleus of the hepatocytes, and these cells start to churn out a steady stream of the antibodies. This was all very clever, no doubt, but let’s not pass laws mandating this for our children. They are not guinea pigs.

As the National Health Policy Forum notes, “All [medical]services carry risks and, in the case of unneeded services, these are not balanced by benefits.” Not only that, but overtreatment carries a huge financial cost. According to George Washington University’s National Health Policy Forum, overspending is costing the healthcare system $210 billion a year, most of which is due to unnecessary services. The American College of Physicians sets the cost of excessive testing alone somewhat higher than that—as much as $250 billion per year. MIT healthcare economist Dr. Jonathan Gruber cites estimates that about $800 billion—or nearly one-third of all healthcare spending—is wasted in unnecessary diagnostic tests, procedures and extra days in the hospital.

“We spend between one-fifth and one-third of our healthcare dollars on care that does nothing to improve our health,” writes award-winning journalist Shannon Brownlee, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and former writer for US News & World Report. Her new book, Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer, documents how between 20 and 30 cents of every health care dollar we spend goes toward useless treatments and hospitalizations, toward CT scans we don’t need, and toward ineffective surgeries.

Speaking of CT scans, they are often used on children during emergency room visits. Between 2000 and 2006, Medicare spending on imaging services also more than doubled—with over a 25% increase in advanced imaging techniques like nuclear medicine and x-ray computed tomography (CT scans), with an estimated 62 million CT scans per year in the US (up from 3 million in 1980).

The problem, of course, is that CT scans have been linked to cancer. A recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine says that the radiation from CT scans may cause of as many as 1 in 50 future cases of cancer. And a new study published in The Lancet show that CT scans in children can significantly increase the risk of leukemia and brain cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer won’t show up for many years, while in the short term it allows hospitals to bill for the unnecessary scan.

The problem is compounded because one doctor or hospital does not know how many other CT scans the child may already have had. This can lead to very high levels of radiation exposure, as we discussed in another recent article.

MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging scans) are also performed excessively. Medicare data show that doctors often order MRI scans for patients with lower back pain instead of prescribing less invasive, less expensive treatments such as physical therapy. An MRI, which costs about $3,000, also frequently leads to even more expensive surgery.

There is also an overabundance of cesarean sections being performed. According to the CDC, births by C-section rose 53% between 1996 and 2007 nationwide, and jumped more than 70% in six states (Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Washington).

The American College of Physicians identified thirty-seven clinical scenarios where screening was unnecessary and did not promote the patients’ health, among them electrocardiograms to screen for cardiac disease in patients at low to average risk for coronary artery disease; coronary angiography in patients with chronic stable angina who have well-controlled symptoms; and exercise electrocardiograms even for low-risk, asymptomatic adults.

Regular readers will recall our report from last year in which we discussed an epidemic of prostate, breast, and colon screenings—and the terrible infections, complications, and spread of cancer that can result from such procedures. As always, a natural approach to healthcare is not only the least expensive, it is also safest and often most effective.

What to do about all this overtreatment? First of all put the patient back in charge of his or her own care, and that of children. Second stop the federal government censorship of health news and information. Third introduce prices—yes real prices—again so that both practitioners and consumers can find out what procedures cost. It’s not rocket science. But it is getting worse, not better.

For more natural health news,
follow us on Facebook and Twitter
  • Marie Leven

    Asa retired RN I can tell you that the amount of procedures done is often related to the number of doctors able to do them. There are valid reasons to remove tonsils or to do other surgeries, X-rays or diagnostic procedures but a lot of what is done is not needed. Doctors are also afraid of law suits so they over order procedures and that should be addressed. Patients also need to stay off of the panic button and ask questions, do a little research and think things over and ask themselves what is best for them.

  • Loretta

    In the not too distant future, the government health care agencies will not allow for a parent’s better judgement in reqard tp medical needs for their children. The elderly are also at risk when it comes to an extended hospital stay. I do not look forward to being in a hospital for a broken bone because I know they will want to inoculate me for everything going because I am old and in their minds I don’t know my arse from a hole in the ground. Mainstream doctors are so corrupted by big pharma, we don’t have a snowball’s chance on the equator.

  • Pat

    Doctors do unnecessary procedures in case they are sued, because they can say they tried everything. They forgot Primum non Nocere. If people would start suing whenever a doctor does an UNNECESSARY procedure and causes harm, you might see some change. Also, we need to INSIST that the Establishment recognize OUR right to choose medical alternatives. Even when it comes to debating health care reform, we are ignored. I don’t WANT health insurance, because it would prevent me from being able to afford the alternative care I get, and it wouldn’t pay my costs.

  • Janet E. Corley

    A concern that I have is the mismanagement of senior citizens and the fact there is no recourse when it occurs

  • Sara Reynolds MD

    There are real problems with pediatric recommendations:
    1. Hepatitis B vaccine be given to newborns before leavinig the hospital. We know that infants,up to age two, have undeveloped immune systems. Thus they cannot develop antibodies, but have all the risks of the vaccines and vaccinations. Tthat’a why it is so important for the baby to get mother’s milkand the antibodies to protect him/her from colds,etc

    2. Gardasil vaccines are pushed by the pediatricians to be given to all preteens-both boys and girls. This is supposed to protect from MPV virus, bt has been fatal for some, caused coonvulsions in soo,me and made permanent invalids in others. Check the government “Adverse Reactions Reports”.

  • Marcia Comoletti

    My daughter, now an adult with her own family, was born with multiple internal birth defects. Her first surgeon taught me so much about being an advocate for my child. He told me that as her parent, I knew her better than anyone including her many doctors. He also showed me that I have the right, and the duty, to question any treatment that I didn’t understand or agree with. Following his advice always was both a learning experience for me as well as young interns who felt they knew it all. He also had some of them apologize to me for dismissing my wishes and/or comments, telling them that by the time we’d raised our “special children” we could probably qualify for a medical degree. Now that last bit was an over statement, however, the point had been made.
    We all owe it to our children, and ourselves too, to strongly advocate for them. Change doctor’s if you must. I did several times and finally started interviewing doctor’s before making a decision about whether I wanted to use their practice. Let them know that that’s what you’re doing and they’ll get the point that you’re serious about your child’s health and a participant in their care.

  • Coalmine Canary

    To do the things that you rightfully suggest, ANH, to restore our freedom of health choices, we must have a strategy that will actually work. In the ideal world, we would like to see patients being put back in charge of their own health, but the reality is that Big Corps will wield their (unconstitutional) power over us. The Feds will not stop censorship of health info so long as they are campaignig based on big contributions from big sources.

    Campaign finance reform is key, but even this will not happen unless we get a new and ethical Congress.

    Maybe yes, and on the other hand, maybe we have some hope.
    Boycots would be key.
    Letters to the editor can be very effective to wake up the slumbering masses. Try the college newsletter editors, who are inclined to print things the mainstream will likely censor. Try also the local newspapers. And blogs.

    As we spread word to help wake people up (that’s where blogs and letters to the editor are keys), and as we boycot and support the Right to Know About GMOs, we have a chance of winning.

    Further strategies and thoughts? Dear readers, please post below! Thank you.

  • All of this is very disheartening besides scary! Why hasn’t anyone brought this up before in our government? Outrageous!

  • It is now apparent that the Huge chem.Co,s,would seek to keep us SICK & ONLY sustainable on their VERY EXPENSIVE DRUGS! Talk about war on drugs?

  • earthmama

    I would also like to mention the following unnecessary procedures: Infant circumcision and induction of labor. I liked the mention of the dental x-rays, which are very often done unnecessarily on all age groups and those without any sorts of dental issues.
    There is also the over-prescribing of prescription drugs, such as antibiotics. There are so many natural alternative’s to antibiotics!
    Just being concious of your health: of what you put in and on your body and taking the most natural approach, can be one of the best sources of preventative “medicine” available!

  • Kathy

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments regarding overtreatment. After an almost 20 year battle with back pain, that thankfully after 9 spine surgeries was fixed by an excellent doctor in Newport Beach, I could share more than a few horror stories. Needless to say, your request to put the PRICE of procedures back on patient statements is a great place to start. We wouldn’t find it acceptable if our local restaurant and/or grocery store didn’t correctly price on the label/menu pricing, so why is it okay with our medical care? The invention of HMO’s has been both a positive and negative for this very reason, and until we take more accountability for our health care this will not change. After going to a multitude of doctor’s and having their care fail me, or worse they blame me and say it’s all in my head… I’ll close with this fact, I’ve had a number of doctor’s, of all specialities, when questioned about their care say to me bluntly (and without shame) that the only reason they specialize in certain testing and treatments is because that is where the money is. Ironically, when their treatments fail they blame the patient, saying, ” it’s all in your head,” failing to state that in reality it has nothing to do with my head and everything to do with the size of their wallet.

  • Ben Fairbanks

    You can’t let doctors decide for you. A vaccine caused my sister to have a stroke & she became a vegetable because of it. The doctors refuse to admit that the stroke was caused by the vaccine. I hate the FDA & our corrupt medical industry. They knowingly cause millions to dye each year because of their lies!

    • Christina S.

      My daughter was also injured by vaccines, they gave her MMR, Varicella and Polio, she started seizing on the way home from the doctor’s office and a week later had high-pitched screaming and arching her back in her crib. She lost speech, eye contact, and began toe-walking, babbling, and was diagnosed with autism. She was 14 months old when the vaccine injuries happened. I felt a part of me die along with her that day, I knew she would never be the same happy healthy child again. She is now 9 and has PANDAS, seizure disorder, toxic encephalopathy, and lyme co-infections.

      • Barbara

        Oh, Christine! I am so sorry for you and your daughter. There was an account of
        two mothers whose sons had been injured by some such vaccines. One of the
        mothers right away wento to alternative procedures including the first thing:
        Clean out the body of all those awful chemicals that have no business in
        the body in the first place. Once those poisons are eliminated from the body
        you will se a real improvement in your child. Be sure you are feeding your
        daughter according to her blood type (you know we all cannot give each
        other blood because of our differences and what the wrong foods for our
        blood type may cause such as illnesses, overweight, etc. Get the book
        LIVE RIGHT FOR YOUR TYPE by D’Amamo), eat only organic fresh foods,
        and give her alkaline water that will help to rinse out her body and help
        her to feel better and get well. Now this may take some time, but you
        should see results in as little as 2-3 days. Persevere—also find a
        very good alternative doctor who will understand your child’s problem.
        Persevere—-persevere—-persevere. Don’t let anyone dissuade you.
        Also, ask our Heavenly Father to show you how to care for your child.
        You will get help beyond belief. Ask sincerely and have ABSOLUTE
        Faith. You believe that the sun is shining no matter what. Also
        believe He wants you to be happy and your daughter to be well.
        Utter only positive thoughts about about what you are about to
        experience. Remember: what we speak determines what we
        will experience. There are many posibilities in any situation.
        Which posibility will you accept? The one where you daughter
        is perpetually ill or one where she is well? What is said about
        doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
        The other mother’s son is still suffering from
        the poisons given him. She accepted the possibily of illness.
        The first mother accepted the possibily of health.
        You still have to do things for your child. Why not try a different way?

  • jamie

    Please prepare a letter to congressman and senators regarding this issue of overmedication. At a time when they are evaluating health plans this could be something we can take action on.

  • vicky semones

    Did you know that ‘big-phara’ pays doctors to prescribe drugs to their patients? One major over-prescribed drug is the statin, lipitor. If you’re considering the drug, or are taking it, please get some information – understand your body’s natural cholesterol levels; look up the long-term side effects of the drug; consider taking natural alternatives / supplements to support your body. One of these substances is Coenyzme Q10 (CoQ10), which some reputable doctors are now recommending, as it replaces what the statin drugs deplete from your body. Always ask questions. Your body deserves the best you can give it.

  • Love your work and appreciate the gist of this article, BUT MRI is not invasive and does not cost $3000.

  • David Alonzi

    These huge takeovers by big pharma and corporates was so inevitable! I saw this coming back in 1970 when I was ten. People who set out to make billions cannot be trusted. I don’t care who they are or where they are coming from . They are HUMANS with an bad aspiration…….MONEY and POWER. They will always chose the dollar over morals and other people. They are never to be trusted ! Though there are good people working under that shadow, they had better wake up and smell the greed and change their paths to get away from it . Nothing good ever comes from this kind of communistic/fascism. People had better learn for their own good to take care of their own health and wealth and souls and stop allowing these conceited stuffed heads to make us think we are incapable of taking care of ourselves so they can fulfill their desires to have world rule. They have all taken us on a great big ride and made us pay big with it. Research: who are these people? what are they doing? and where do they get their ideologies. Read:” Natural Cures They Don’t Want You To Know About”> This book describes the ” nature ” of what we are dealing with here on almost ALL levels of gov’t. and society and so does the Bible!

  • rita butler

    The over prescription of drugs is way out of bounds. Our local newspaper just did a whole series on how many people in our state are addicted to prescription drugs. The worst aspect of this is that now thousands of newborns are being born addicted to prescription drugs. These tiny babies go through horrible suffering and severe health impacts from these drugs. MDs have become a profession of drug pushers who are not much different from the street corner pusher of hard drugs and with similar results.