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Heart Surgeons are Liars

 Dr. Nortin Hadler, professor of medicine at UNC knows what he’s talking about. He’s spent the last thirty years examining the stats associated with various medical interventions… and he’s written up some of his results in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He’s got a new book out, and some of the takeaway is startling.

It turns out that bypass surgery (which is incredibly expensive, quite risky and leads half of the patients to suffer depression and a third to have measurable memory loss) does no good at all. None.

In one study, half the angina patients waiting for surgery got nothing but a cut in the chest–no surgery. The other half had the surgery. The results? The placebo group enjoyed the same improvements as those that had the “real” surgery.

Of course, if surgery works–even pretend surgery–it’s real. It turns out that something as examined and life-threatening as heart surgery is no different than a wine glass or an iPod. It’s the way you feel, not what is really happening.

So, if it’s so obvious, why do we still cut so many people open? Because of worldview. Hey, it’s your heart. You better do everything you can to protect yourself. Take no chances. Cut no corners. That’s the story we desperately want to hear. I predict it’ll take at least 20 years before bypasses go away.

(for those considering bypass surgery: I’m not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. I haven’t done all the research, and I’m naturally hyperbolic. Consider this a grain of salt.)