Jan 30, 2011


I had the following exchange with a nurse practitioner at Jack's pediatrician's office when he was 4 months old.

"So you're going to give him these vitamin D supplements..."

"Wait, who makes these?"


"I gotta tell you, I will probably not give them to him."

"Studies show breast fed babies..."

"How about I just take him outside once in a while."

"Studies show..."

"I'm so sorry, I'm absolutely not going to. We can just move on to the next thing."

She seemed very annoyed with me and slightly shaken, but I knew what I was talking about. You see when Jack was born I was worried he was a tad jaundiced as he was so tan. When I took him in for his two week check up with the doctor at the very same clinic he said

"Nah, he's perfectly fine, you just take him for walks in the stroller and this Texas baby will get lot's of vitamin D the natural way."

After that, anything that nurse practitioner said to me was suspect, I doubted the measurement of his head that day.

I like to be an informed patient, often reading everything I can get my hands on about a diagnosis before accepting it. Sometimes I read contradictory articles and have to have long discussions with doctors addressing giant list of questions I've prepared. Today when I found Sharon Begley's article in Newsweek "Why Almost Everything You Hear About Medicine is Wrong" I was relieved to know I wasn't just overly skeptical, I'd just been paying attention and using some basic critical thinking skills. It's a good article explaining how we read about one study in the news and a few years later read the exact opposite.

This is just one part of a larger issue in reporting that we face. Anxious news outlets have been trading integrity for sensational ratings for some time now trying to compete with instant internet news, firing actual reporters and just regurgitating whatever press release is sent, slapping outrageous titles on already outstanding articles (see above mentioned link.) Network news panders instead of educating to keep us tuned in and today I see even medical journals cave to the pressure of exciting pharmaceutical rhetoric.

Critical thinking skills and healthy skepticism is a necessity in this era. From questioning a doctor's diagnosis to realizing a magazine cover is airbrushed, we must foster a classical education for ourselves and our children instead of memorizing facts and teaching to the test. It doesn't mater if one can recite the atomic weight of every element on the periodic table if later it changes and Pluto isn't a planet and life forms aren't strictly carbon based. I'm not saying throw it all out the window and go on faith, I am just saying - think.

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