Why We Make Health Care Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Dr. Sixto Caro speaks with patient Jose Rodriguez at the Medspan Associates clinic in New York. (Stan Honda/Getty)

Americans are inundated with medical information--from the media, the Internet, friends and acquaintances, journals and ads. For any disease or condition, there’s usually a flood of advice, research studies, and expert opinions, which are often conflicting. Gina Kolata, health reporter for the New York Times, offers advice for sorting through this information in order to make better health decisions. Her e-book The Smart Patient: Mistakes We Make About Our Health – And How to Avoid Them, explains why large random studies are more trustworthy than observational ones, when an independent second opinion is crucial, and what questions you should ask your doctor.



Gina Kolata

Comments [9]

Donald J. Sepanek from Bayonne, NJ

She lost me when she said that "random bad luck" was the cause of cancer.

Sep. 03 2014 01:37 PM

When you plan on having surgery consult with at least three doctors. It is amazing how many different opinions you can get from the experts. Choose wisely.

Sep. 03 2014 01:25 PM
John from Bklyn

The treatment of choice for a torn ligament is prolotherapy (Google it).

It’s inexpensive, harmless and effective.

Sep. 03 2014 12:41 PM
Heather from Virginia

MDs, mostly those tied to their old-school training, like to own "science" but the jury still needs to be called to order on our current medical methodology, particularly in the face of escalating chronic conditions which traditional medicine and its science has failed to address. Functional medicine looks at the whole person (body, mind, spirit) with testing of blood, urine, saliva (science) to identify the unique person's biochemistry, factors like parasites, low stomach acid, hormone imbalances, and so on that would inform treatment. Genetics meets environment. Everyone's different, so a broad stroke clinical trial, logically, is bad science.

Sep. 03 2014 12:29 PM
Joe from Bridgewater

Does Ms. Kolata have any comment on the laetrile quackery broadcast on your show last week?

Sep. 03 2014 12:26 PM
Nick from UWS

She doesn't know this, she doesn't know that, she never bothered to find out the status of her friend's son.....for a supposed "expert" on this subject this woman has an odd and completely off-putting lack of intellectual curiosity about it, especially her lax preparation for this show. Why on earth would she tell the story about her friend's son and then not be curious enough to bother finding out how it turned out? Thereby illustrating the #1 rule of your own health extreme skepticism towards "experts", "pundits" and media talking heads.

Sep. 03 2014 12:23 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Here's the truth. 90% of our health is genetically predetermined. Sure we can improve longevity by staying away from excess tobacco, drugs, sugar and risky behaviors. But by and large the body cures itself most of the time, or we'd all be dead at a very young age. Modern medicine and good hygiene has made it possible for so many who would have died at much younger age to live on. But most of this health news is just like other news, mostly a form of entertainment. We get too involved in this or that diet, or this or that form of exercise mainly as a diversion. By and large we need to stay away from risky behaviors and overeating in general and do a bit of exercise to keep the heart, muscles and bones in the best shape they can be for their age. But not be fanatical, because most of it is your genetic fate.

Sep. 03 2014 12:21 PM
Amy from Manhattan

On use of placebo in studies, in most clinical trials (but not the big hormone replacement trial) the experimental treatment is tested against the current standard treatment, not no treatment. This sometimes involves testing a combination of the 2 treatments in 1 group & each treatment alone (but along w/a placebo that the subjects & the dr's. don't know isn't the other drug) in each of 2 other groups. But none of the groups gets no treatment--that would raise the ethical issues Ms. Kolata mentioned for the hormone replacement trial.

Sep. 03 2014 12:19 PM
hmi from Park Slope

The study that has not been done is to look at the possible protective effect of natural estrogen/progesterone, instead of the artificial equine-derived version commonly prescribed. So far as I can tell, the jury is still out on this one.

Sep. 03 2014 12:10 PM

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