Science-Based Medicine

This year I had a course called Evidence-Based Medicine. The point of the class was to educate us on how to use the medical literature to determine the best treatments. Medicine has definitely come a long way from bleeding patients as a form of treatment. Now, we have evidence to lead the way.

But I recently overheard my parents talking about drinking EPSOM salt as part of an alternative to surgery for removing gallbladder stones. The treatment involved drinking fresh-squeezed apple juice for a number of days, drinking a 1/2 cup of Virgin Olive Oil, and then drinking an EPSOM salt and water mixture.

The treatment is supposed to flush out your liver/gallbladder and cause gallstones to be excreted with your stool. The site has a page dedicated to this treatment with a list of the various different “recipes” for the treatment. (Click here to see the liver flushing page.) Oh, and for all the skeptics, the pages come complete with pictures of gallstones people removed from their own stool!

Well I was a skeptic. I realize I’m just a medical student. But the idea didn’t sit right with me. Then I found a website called Science-Based Medicine that contained an article titled “Would you like a liver flush with that colon cleanse?

The author, a surgeon, rips apart this treatment. If I were to paraphrase him: The treatment is absolutely ridiculous. You can check out the details at his post.

Even in this day and age, there are still plenty of strange treatments that are blindly followed without any evidence to support it. My parents heard about this treatment from a church member who was told that she had gallstones and needed a surgery to remove them.

I wish we could educate the public. Maybe a course on evidence-based medicine should be taught at the high school level. I mean, reading a site like the one listed above (Curezone) can be very convincing. You see all these testimonials by people who have “flushed” their livers. You see pictures of these supposed gallstones that were fished out of the toilet. And you think, hey, that’s proof it works!

I guess this was one moment where I saw the value of my Evidence-Based Medicine course — a value I failed to appreciate at the time I took it.