• kmathison6

Ask Your Doctor


Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post explaining my response to the question, "Is the COVID vaccine the mark of the beast?" (The answer is No, by the way). Over the course of the following week, I received several emails in response to that post. The basic gist of most of these was: "Even if the COVID vaccine isn't the mark of the beast, should I get it?" I find this an odd question because from where I sit, someone might as well ask me my advice on plumbing or playing the piano. I can't help you with those because I have no expertise, training, or experience with either plumbing or piano playing. But I also can't help you with the vaccine question because I have no expertise, training, or experience in medicine.


If someone asks me my opinion on whether they should get the COVID vaccine, my response is going to be the same every time: Ask your doctor. He or she knows you and has training and expertise in issues related to diseases and the prevention and treatment of diseases. I don't. A vaccination is a medical issue. There's no good reason to ask me, or a journalist, or a politician, or a friend on social media what to do regarding a medical issue. There's even less of a reason for me or anyone else who isn't a doctor to offer their opinion or advice. If I told you what I think you should do with regard to a vaccine of any kind, I would, in a sense, be practicing medicine without a license.


I am eminently unqualified to offer anyone advice on vaccination even if I read a lot of books, news articles, or online sources. Why? Because that is not the same thing as being a trained and experienced medical doctor. My ignorance of all of the issues involved is not outweighed by reading a few online articles. Unfortunately, the internet gives all of us the illusion of knowledge, but that is all it is - an illusion. Imagine if you took Lloyd and Harry from the film "Dumb and Dumber" and placed them in the middle of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Would that give them knowledge? Would it make them experts on the subjects found in the library books? Would it make them smarter? Obviously not. The internet is somewhat like a massive library. The fact that we have access to it doesn't give us knowledge or expertise or intelligence. Compounding the problem is the fact that unlike the Bodleian Library, the internet has no real filter, no librarian. It contains many good "books" along with a lot of nonsense. Unless a person has enough knowledge to discern the difference, the "research" they claim to have done, could be, and many times is, worthless. The knowledge needed to do medical research is gained in medical school and in medical practice, not Facebook or Twitter.


Almost everybody understands this basic point when it comes to their own job. Whether someone is a doctor or a plumber, he or she recognizes someone who doesn't know what he is taking about almost instantly. If I applied for a plumber's job and claimed I knew how to do the job because I had done some online "research," and watched some YouTube videos, any real plumber would recognize my incompetence and ignorance within 30 seconds of talking to me. That's true of almost any reader of this blog regarding their own job and their own expertise. But we've also all been raised in this culture of narcissistic self-esteem that has conditioned all of us to reject the very possibility that there could be such a thing as an expert on something and that our opinion might actually be wrong. We hold these two together in an odd tension. We recognize our own expertise in our own field, but we have a difficult time granting the expertise of others in their field.


In some realms of human activity, this might be relatively harmless. If I'm shadowing the plumber who came to fix a broken pipe in my house, and I'm constantly telling him that I think he's doing his job wrong and I know how to do it better, he may get annoyed. He may even leave and say, "Okay, do it yourself." But my ignorance probably won't seriously hurt anything other than my own ego when I flood my house.


When it comes to medical issues, however, the consequences can be far greater. My wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. We talked to the doctor, got our information from the doctor, and did what the doctor recommended. It is now 2021, and thankfully my wife remains cancer free. We had a close family friend who lived across the street from us for many years. She was diagnosed with cancer not long after my wife's diagnosis. She talked to friends and read things they found in their "research." She became convinced that she didn't have cancer. It was a hoax used by the pharmaceutical companies to make money. The cancer spread, and by the time she realized the cancer was real, it was too late. People who were not doctors offered their advice on a medical issue, and it cost this dear woman her life.


I'm not saying that doctors are infallible. Doctors are human, and medical knowledge is an ongoing work. But the fact that doctors are human and medical knowledge is imperfect doesn't mean that if you shatter your leg in a car accident, you should stay home and try to fix it with essential oils because a friend on Facebook said that works better than having a doctor set the bone and put your leg in a cast. The point is simply this. If you are looking for advice on a medical question such as the COVID vaccine, don't ask me. Ask your family doctor. I don't have the knowledge or competence to say anything on the matter. But neither does any journalist, politician, social media friend, or blogger who isn't also a doctor.