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Why Do Some Patients Balk? It’s A Conspiracy!

April 1, 2014
Written by: , Filed in: Medical Ethics, Practice Management
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Hey, you realize that government regulators are deliberately keeping people from getting natural cures for cancer and other diseases—cures that really work—in order to protect the profits of drug companies, right? Everybody knows it’s true.

Well, maybe not everybody. But 37 percent of Americans do believe that conspiracy theory, according to research published online last month in JAMA Internal Medicine. Only 32 percent say it’s definitely hooey. Yes, this is April Fool’s Day, but unfortunately we’re not kidding.

Five other popular medical conspiracy theories found believers among 12 percent to 20 percent of those surveyed. The researchers had an interesting take on those results:

Although it is common to disparage adherents of conspiracy theories as a delusional fringe of paranoid cranks, our data suggest that medical conspiracy theories are widely known, broadly endorsed, and highly predictive of many common health behaviors.

In other words, don’t judge; just understand that patients who believe in such conspiracies are more likely to use alternative medicines and view traditional medicine with suspicion. So they may be less likely to follow a prescription regimen or other recommendations.

“Science in general, medicine in particular, is complicated and cognitively challenging because you have to carry around a lot of uncertainty,” said J. Eric Oliver, PhD, lead author of the study and professor of political science at the University of Chicago. “To talk about epidemiology and probability theories is difficult to understand as opposed to ‘if you put this substance in your body, it’s going to be bad.'”

Reuters Health quoted Dr. Oliver in a story published last month.

Here are the other theories, with the percentages of those surveyed who agreed and disagreed:

  • Health officials know cell phones cause cancer but won’t do anything because big corporations won’t let them: 20 percent agreed, 40 percent disagreed.
  • The CIA deliberately infected African-Americans with HIV via a bogus hepatitis inoculation program: 12 percent agreed, 51 percent disagreed.
  • The global dissemination of genetically modified foods is part of a secret program called Agenda 21 and was launched by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations to reduce the world’s population: 12 percent agreed, 42 percent disagreed.
  • Doctors and the government know vaccines cause autism and other disorders but still promote childhood vaccination: 20 percent agreed, 44 percent disagreed.
  • Water fluoridation is just a way for chemical companies to get rid of phosphate mine byproducts: 12 percent agreed, 46 percent disagreed.

The Reuters Health story has drawn three online comments at this writing. All three support medical conspiracy theories.

Related CME Seminar (up to 35.25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits): UW Radiology Review Course “Not Just for Residents”


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One Response to “Why Do Some Patients Balk? It’s A Conspiracy!”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Late Radiologist’s Estate Hit In $1.25 Million Verdict on April 9th, 2014 at 10:01 am

    […] believes medical conspiracy theories (which we discussed on April Fool’s Day)? One journalist says it’s people “to whom it is important to believe that they are […]