NYT publishes this incriminating story demonstrating that the nation’s physicians intentionally misled the American public in an attempt to generate business:

To the growing numbers of medical experts who preach evidence-based medicine–the discipline that insists on proof that time-honored medical practices and procedures are actually effective–there is no more inviting target than the annual physical.

Checkups for people with no medical complaint remain the single most common reason for visiting a doctor, according to surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2000, they accounted for about 64 million office visits, out of 823.5 million visits over all. At $120 to $150 per visit (and $2,000 or so for the gold-plated “executive physical” that many companies offer to top executives), that adds up to more than $7 billion a year.

Yet in a series of reports that began in 1989 and is still continuing, an expert committee sponsored by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, found little support for many of the tests commonly included in a typical physical exam for symptomless people.

It found no evidence, for example, that routine pelvic, rectal and testicular exams made any difference in overall survival rates for those with no symptoms of illness.

It warned that such tests can lead to false alarms, necessitating a round of expensive and sometimes risky follow-up tests. And even many tests that are useful, like cholesterol and blood pressure checks, need not be done every year, it said in reports to doctors, policy makers and the public.

But if the annual physical is largely obsolete, hardly anyone has gotten the message. While the federal Medicare program does not pay for routine checkups–by law, it is limited to treating illness–many insurance companies do, saying their customers continue to demand them. Many doctors say they perform them out of habit or out of a conviction that patients expect them and that they help establish trust.

Even doctors who know all about the evidence-based guidelines for preventive medicine say they often compromise in the interest of keeping patients happy. Dr. John K. Min, an internist in Burlington, N.C., tells the story of a 72-year-old patient who came to him for her annual physical, knowing exactly what tests she wanted.

So, not only have they been encouraging expensive tests that most of us hate in order to find diseases of personal destruction, but these very tests often produce intentionally misleading results, the result of which is doctors lying to their patients about diseases they don’t even have. And, clearly, they have been covering up the dissenting voice since at least 1989, when the first President Bush was in charge. And, of course, the UN was not consulted about any of this.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tiger says:

    How is it that such went right over my head. And the reason for not going in for a physical once a year for testing is what? So no early detection of say prostrate cancer or some other type is not worth the trip and the time and the insurance company’s money? I actually do only try to see a doctor when I think there is some reason to do so, but as I advance in age, I like having some routine testing done just to make sure that there is not something developing that might be treatable if caught in the early stages that might be life threatening if I wait until I actually develop noticable symptoms.

    Oh, please do note that my URL has been adjusted to

  2. I only go to the doctor if there is imminent threat of some disease. Which in practice means waiting until I’m actually sick. At some point it might mean waiting until I’m actually dead, but at least I’m saving money.