In yesterday’s post I described how searching the medical literature helped me avoid a dangerous surgery with no obvious benefit. The surgeon I consulted, who recommended the surgery, said that published evidence backed her up. I could not find that evidence, however. Others found evidence that contradicted her recommendation.
Among the comments on that post were similar stories: Searching/reading the medical literature had been helpful. Learning what had happened (in research studies) was better than relying on an expert (a doctor). Here is an example:
A little over two years ago, I was “depressed”. My psychiatrist wanted to prescribe an SNRI [serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor]. I related, once again, my poor experience with an SSRI and asked for evidence that an SNRI would be any more effective. He said there was evidence that SSRIs [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors] worked. I pointed out the 2004 meta-analysis that showed no meaningful difference between SSRIs and placebos. Then I asked whether there was any better evidence for SNRIs. Since he wasn’t able to provide any, I told him that since we know that extremely low Vitamin D blood levels, poor diet, no exercise, and no social life can cause depression (all things I had at the time), I’ll try fixing those things first and then resort to drugs if that fails. It did not fail and I quit seeing him.
None of the stories in the comments described the opposite outcome: Knowing the data made things worse.
Are there exceptions? Is it always helpful (or at least not harmful) to know what happened (i.e., know research outcomes)? Has anyone reading this had an experience where knowing health research data was harmful?