Evidence based Politics – 21st July 1997

Evidence based medicine (EBM) is the latest fad for Government control of medical practice. It totally ignores the role our universities and colleges play in maintaining standards.

The fact that medical practice in Australia has an international reputation for excellent results in spite of Government interference has been ignored.

So has the fact that we spend hours away from our patients attending to our need and desire to keep up with the latest and best techniques.

Why then has EBM become a recent fad of politicians? Answer: It is yet another attempt to justify heavy Government and commercial intervention in clinical practice – cost control.

This was summed up best in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald 1 July 1997 by a US Physician, Dr Ilja Hulinsky, from Ansonia, Connecticut who wrote “By requiring proof of the value of any treatment or procedure, bureaucrats can easily limit access to, or increase patient’s costs of, new costly drugs and technologies that, although safe and efficacious, have not, and could not yet have undergone exhaustive research.” (Ed: We’re still learning about aspirin!)

“The political appeal of EBM stems from the fact that only a small step is needed from demanding the use of such treatment for which there is unequivocal scientific proof to refusing payment or other governmental support for all but established practices.”

The Australian Doctors’ Fund will vigorously expose the political tactics dressed up as being in the “public interest” but really designed to reduce an independent medical profession to a second rate Government department or a compliant client of a Government regulated commercial bureaucracy.

Beware the politician who preaches clinical virtue.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald 10 May 1997 Dr Wooldridge is now a devotee of evidence based medicine.

However, this may get Dr Wooldridge into more trouble than he thinks.

I predict that there will be no shortage of our colleagues putting pen to paper to indicate that there is clear evidence for a dramatic increase in Government funding for health care in their particular area.

Perhaps our Health Minister would be better advised to concern himself with evidence based politics.

Where is the evidence that more and more Government intervention, which Dr Wooldridge seems to promote, has done anything to improve the quality of health care?

Perhaps the real evidence lies in the same article (Sydney Morning Herald 10 May 1997). Dr Wooldridge “…sees himself as a future leader and is not about to let the health portfolio get in his way.” With all his reliance on polls our Minister seems to have forgotten leadership and failed to realise that a weathercock never goes anywhere.

Bruce D Shepherd