Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist Opinion

Cyberchondriacs are hypochondriacs online

WHEN hypochondriacs endlessly search Internet medical websites to either diagnose sickness or find treatments to alleviate chronic conditions, they are known as Cyberchondriacs.

I am one such individual, hopelessly lost in a world of too much information, confused by contradictions between websites and possessed by a sneaking suspicion that their real motives are to subtly sell healthcare services and drugs.

But in the area of drugs all websites agree:

Stop using XY and call your doctor if you have changes in your vision, shortness of breath (even with mild exertion), swelling or rapid weight gain, the first sign of any skin rash, no matter how mild, signs of stomach bleeding – bloody or tarry stools, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds, liver problems – nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, tired feeling, flu-like symptoms, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-coloured stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), kidney problems – little or no urinating, painful or difficult urination, swelling in your feet or ankles, feeling tired or short of breath, low red blood cells (anaemia) – pale skin, feeling light-headed or short of breath, rapid heart rate, trouble concentrating, severe skin reaction – fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.

And they’ve got the cheek to add to that lot: This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur – in other words, ‘You have been warned and we take no responsibility for any adverse side effects’; those few words, a ‘get out of jail’ card for Big Pharma, like ‘Smoking damages your health’ is for tobacco giants and ‘more than two pints a day can damage your liver’ for breweries – simply criminal abnegation of moral responsibility.

The evils of Big Pharma lie in patent protection and exorbitant price lists, notwithstanding intentionally designed addiction of products as seemingly innocent as codeine, cortisone and benzodiazepines.

When I complain to the doctor for prescribing XY he says, ‘The benefits outweigh the risks. You either take it or suffer the consequences.’

Now that’s emotional blackmail, but legal. And as we’ve learnt recently, many ‘heavy’ drugs are ‘seriously’ expensive, dangerous to one’s health and no longer available from our public health service pharmacies.

Last month, my amical dermatologist handed me a box of ‘blue pills’ saying, ‘I’m over sixty and have been married for nearly 30 years. I need help. Perhaps you do.’ After reading the innumerable adverse possible side effects, I threw them in the bin.

And he is not the only doctor to ‘deal’. My urologist and family doctor have done the same sans request as if they were on a crusade to bolster the already obscene profits of Big Pharma.

Healthcare is a many trillion dollar affair, and far too often, proper patient care comes way down the list of priorities.

A 55-year-old Nicosia lady visited a private sector physician three separate times complaining of always feeling tired, weak and depressed. After investing many hundreds of euros in fees, blood tests and scans she was prescribed antidepressants – the doctor diagnosing post-menopausal depression.

Last week she collapsed, was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with lung cancer. She was buried to standing room only in the church and courtyard, many of the mourners bemused and angered by the physician’s unaccountable misdiagnosis.

Now for the public sector!

A cousin’s husband, 76 years old, was this February transferred unconscious from intensive care to a ward of three others suffering terminal health problems; I call it ‘the death and done ward’ at the Nicosia General.

Two days after his wife acquiesced to a hospital request to terminate assistance (drips, drugs and oxygen mask) he died peacefully of respiratory failure. He had, only the month before, been told by a public healthcare pulmonologist that he was in good health for his age – again, no accountability!

Working parts for most of us start to go wrong in our mid-sixties, and it just gets worse.

Nevertheless, we are living much longer than our grandparents, but not our parents.

Fifty years ago, a minimum of medical care kept our parents alive longer. My father lived to 92 and refused to visit a doctor. He believed doctors in Cyprus were all quacks only interested in the bottom line, not the patient. His favourite cousin was Simopoulos, the 1930’s village doctor of Strovolos. They would sometimes do house calls together, the doctor prescribing nothing stronger than aspirin to nearly all sick and elderly.

Today, the aim seems to be to bleed our pockets to death by keeping us alive no matter what.

Between 2003 and 2010, two of my aunts were kept alive immobile – one for six years dying eventually at 93, and the other for three dying at 96 – by  pensions sufficient to employ foreign carers, pay for doctors’ visits and ‘essential’ drugs.

I wish to be sat outside the igloo when a useless ‘Eskimo’; death from hypothermia being side effect free, and they say, sleep induced and painless! Sounds a bit like the way Dignitas in Switzerland make pots of money from euthanasia. But then again, Dignitas is Big Pharma by another name… both take your money then kill you with drugs, the latter painstakingly slowly and the former in a flash.








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