Saturday, September 5, 2009

Being Informed - The Price of Freedom

The other day we ended up consulting with a doctor regarding an aspect of Duang's health. I accompanied her into the doctor's office. I ended up having a fairly good technical conversation with the doctor and the doctor asked me if I was a doctor. No - I am not a doctor. Unlike the commercial, I didn't sleep at the Holiday Inn Express the night before.

This was not the first time that I had been asked if I was a professional outside of my career as a Mechanical Engineer. I was once asked by a lawyer if I was a lawyer.

On another occasion, during a review of my investment portfolio, a professional "investment counsellor" for a large US firm remarked that he had nothing to recommend to me and complimented me on the portfolio that I had created using Quicken software and performing my own research over the Internet.

These incidents are not due to random chance. I have always strove to be informed on all aspects of my life to be able to make informed decisions as well as to be capable of evaluating the advice given to me by "experts".

Having worked overseas, I have been exposed to a myriad of medical standards and conditions. In Curitiba, Brasil I had two impacted wisdom teeth removed at the dentist's office under conditions that most likely exceeded most facilities in the United States. The office, surgery, and even the elevator were immaculate. An oral surgeon trained at Northwestern University, a regular dentist, dental assistant and anesthesiologist all worked together on the operation. I am certain that my after care exceeded US standard practise - I received three laser treatments to accelerate and facilitate healing. The surgeon gave me his home phone number as well as his cell phone number. While he was away at a convention the following week, he called me three times to check on my recovery.

In Arzew, Algeria our medical facility was basically a clinic set up in a 20 year old house trailer in the resident camp staffed by an Algerian doctor who had been trained in Belgium. When my wife first met him, he was seated at a table reading the "Merck Medical Manual" - the same book she had brought to Algeria with her. The facility was very basic and handled the medical needs for the camp's 5,000 residents. Medical waste such as syringes was used by some of the local children as playthings - even during the age of AIDS. Medical emergencies such as ex-patriot's broken limbs required medical evacuation to either Spain or France.

In between these two extremes I was exposed to various degrees of medical facilities and capabilities including treatment for Cholera in my home in Vietnam with the bedroom coat rack serving as support for the IV drip. These experiences have lead me to some different perspectives regarding medical care and treatment.

I have found and learned that most of the time our aches, pains, and sickness do not require the high tech but expensive facilities so often available throughout the USA and in large part expected by patients. In the places where I have lived overseas lawsuits and charges of malpractice are rare.

Doctors are not responsible for our health. We are responsible for health. Poor choices that we make affect our life and we are eventually accountable for those choices. Doctors can help alleviate some of the damages that we cause ourselves.

Having seen medicine practiced under various conditions, I view doctors as people with some specific training and experience but they are not miracle workers. They, based upon their training and experience, diagnose our ailments. It is our good fortune that for most of our life our ailments are relatively common place and predictable. Colds, flu, sprains, cuts, broken bones, childhood diseases and blood pressure ailments are easily treated without requiring the latest technology or world class facilities.

To be truly free, we need to be able to make informed decisions and not blindly trust or rely upon others. To enjoy and maintain freedom requires diligence and hard work.

During the early years of our life, many of us were encouraged to question and challenge authority.

Now that we are advancing into the later years of our life it is ironic how willingly some of us are to blindly accept and trust our governments in matters that affect so much of our daily life.

A cost of being free is to take the necessary steps to ensure that we are fully informed. If it can't be explained or if you can not understand it, it most likely is not a good idea or the truth to begin with. The problem is not with you. The problem is with the presenter or proponent but it very well could become your problem if you blindly buy into it or accept it be it investments, personal finances, relationships, foreign policy, law or health care.

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