In NASA, there's one job occupied by one person, it's the safety officer. He's the only guy who can call the whole thing off on a whim. Here's how it works, simplified. If everybody says "IT'S A GO!", his job is to disagree with everybody else and find the one thing that makes him say "NO GO!", and launch is aborted. We all know what happened when we ignored him this one time. More recently in the movie WWZ, Brad meats a guy who's job is called as he explains "the tenth man" with basically the same job. When the other nine men all agreed the zombie email was some sort of code for a military operation, he decided that the zombie email really was about zombies. In the Canadian and Quebec government, we have something called the ombudsman who's job is similar.
Anyway, the point is that it seems like there is no such safety mechanism in the medical profession. I believe there should be. After all, we're talking about the safety of those who put their lives in the hands of other people, the safety of those who allow others' belief to decide their fate. We used to have something like that in the form of a second opinion. Today you'd be hard pressed to find a doc who even suggests you get a second opinion. In fact, it seems the medical profession shuns second opinions now, and condemns any doc who goes against the dominant paradigm. Atkins is a famous example of this phenomenon.
We could argue that we have ample safety mechanisms in the form of groups of people with group opposite views. For example, the cancer society (standard thinking) vs the SCSC group (different thinking), or the statinators vs the THINCS group. We could also argue that there is somebody who keeps everybody in check from a liability point of view, but that only applies to the docs as they become liable if the procedure goes against the group's belief and fails. If it goes with the group's belief and fails, there's no liability. In other words, they've done all they can, but only if it also fits their belief. They haven't really done all they can. Within each of those groups, there is nobody who's job is to disagree with everybody for the sole purpose of the safety of the patients, no safety officer. I believe one consequence of this lack of a safety officer is that trials that recruit patients for experiments with non-conventional cancer treatments only allow really really sick patients. This creates a bias in favor of failure of the experiment just by virtue of the patients' survival potential. He's about to die, might as well try anything at this point. The non-conventional treatment is not given a fair chance to succeed. And even with success, this treatment isn't accepted as standard practice. It remains non-conventional, a last resort. A safety officer would change all that.
Imagine if the doc had the legal obligation to tell you to consult - to give you an appointment - with the safety officer who's job is to disagree with the doc, who would then genuinely offer you all the alternatives he knows about. In fact, the safety officer would fail at his job if he didn't offer you all the alternatives he knew about.
Last edited by M Levac : Sat, Sep-21-13 at 04:15.