by Stewart B. Segal, MD
WITCHCRAFT, CURSES AND SPELLS
For centuries, man has believed in the “evil eye”, curses and spells. In the movies, an evil being places a “spell” on the heroine who suffers horribly until that spell is broken. I believe in the “evil eye,” curses and spells. They actually work! Let me explain.
In modern times, doctors curse people. They don’t mean to, but it happens. It’s not just doctors; there are many offenders. In medicine, Google may be the worst! A patient comes to the office with a complaint. The complaint leads to a diagnosis of cancer. A diagnosis of cancer leads to testing and specialty care. In the process of finding out the extent of the cancer and exploring treatment options, the patient is smothered in information. Doctors, performing their duty to inform the patient, start talking about percentages. The percentages include calculations regarding the risk and side effects of the treatment and one and three year survival rates. Patients, trying to figure it all out, turn to the internet, friends and relatives. They see more doctors. Ultimately, it all boils down to population statistics and calculation of odds.
My patient, once a unique individual, becomes a statistic. The system “cursed” him and the curse became real. I have seen people die because they gave up. For them, the odds were overwhelming. One day, not too many years ago, I was making more morning rounds at the hospital when the nurse called and asked me to come to her floor stat. She told me Mr. A, in room 424, was dying. I told her that was impossible; he was to be discharged home that morning! He was well! When I arrived at his room, I was dumbfounded. Mr. “A” was, in fact, dying. I examined him, reviewed all of his lab and x-rays and could not find one reason for his failing health. When I told Mr. A that I could not find the reason for his dying, that he should be going home, he responded stating he was certain that the day before, he had heard the nurse tell his wife that he was going to die. I explained that there was absolutely no reason for him to die; but that, if he did not get out of bed and decide to live, I was going to lose a healthy patient.
Mr. A taught me the power of a curse. Ever since that day I have reminded my patients that they are unique individuals, not “average patients with a disease.” I have reminded them that they have never been average and pleaded with them not to become a statistically average patient at this stage of their lives. I have asked them to gather evidence and knowledge so that they can make the best decisions they can for themselves, but not to let the evidence overwhelm and curse them.
Odds are a funny thing. If the odds of living with a given diagnosis are 1 in 100 or 1 in 100,000 for the general population, are they the same for you? Not really! I see it is either you are going to live or not. That’s 50/50 in my book. I want my patients to choose to live.
So, if you are given a potentially bad diagnosis, turn it into a potentially good prognosis. Don’t be suckered by statistics. Don’t become a statistic. Become an outlier. Live long and be happy.